On Monday, the Libyan National Army (LNA) launched a shelling attack against the rivalling Government of National Accord (GNA). The LNA targeted areas near Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport, killing four civilians and injuring six. These reports surfaced after both the LNA and GNA had welcomed a ceasefire in response to the ongoing threat of the Coronavirus.
A civil war has been ravaging the country for over half a decade. Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, Libya has been torn by two political factions, the GNA, operating in the northwest capital of Tripoli and the eastern-based LNA. Though contained within the country’s borders, the Libyan civil war has reached an international scale, with the LNA enjoying support from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Russia; and the GNA finding an ally in Turkey. The GNA also has the advantage of official recognition from the United Nations. Since last April, General Khalifa Haftar, Commander of the LNA, has been trying to capture the UN-backed capital of Tripoli, but as of yet, his attempts have been unsuccessful.
In a statement last week, the UN urged the two parties to redirect their attention away from engaging in hostilities and towards fighting the Coronavirus. In light of the severity of the pandemic, the opposing governments had welcomed a temporary cessation of warfare. So far, Libya has counted itself amongst the few countries spared from the virus. But, there are concerns that Libya will be seriously affected by the pandemic as conflicts persist. Not to mention the country cannot endure any more strain on its already broken health system.
Just this past week, the GNA accused the LNA of exposing the country to the virus through their use of foreign mercenaries. Mercenaries, being an expeditionary force, are highly capable of spreading the virus. The mercenaries in question, employed by a Russian private military contractor called the Wagner Group, were flown into the eastern city of Benghazi on a Syrian airliner. The flight also carried fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The GNA’s interior ministry was concerned that the employment of this dynamic military force would catalyze a national health disaster, as the mercenaries had reportedly been present in Middle Eastern countries, such as Iran, where the Coronavirus is running rampant.
The GNA and LNA have taken precautionary measures to ensure the virus does not breach Libya’s borders. Along with the suspension of certain public services, last week both governments enacted curfews, lasting from 6:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M.. The GNA also suspended flights from the Misrata Airport and closed borders under its jurisdiction.
Both the GNA and the LNA have reported violations of the ceasefire since its inception. The UN had hoped that the temporary truce would have paved the way for lasting peace in Libya. In particular, the UN had called on parties to implement the draft ceasefire agreement reached at the 5+5 Joint Military Commission talks last month. Short-term, the truce was critical to ensure that Libyans had access to humanitarian aid for the duration of the pandemic. Going forth, to mitigate the impact of the Coronavirus, Libya must heed the UN’s advice, or else the country may not only be plagued with war.
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