Intense fighting broke out in the capital overnight as rival factions exchanged heavy gunfire and several loud explosions sounded across the city. Images and videos circulating on social media show the scale of the clashes with dozens of buildings, including residential ones, destroyed and several cars smashed and set on fire.
The UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU) said on its official Facebook page that the clashes “were sparked by a military group firing randomly at a convoy passing through the Zawia Street area, while that armed groups were gathering at the 27th gate in the west of Tripoli and the Jebs gate in the south of Tripoli.”
The country’s interim prime minister, Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, head of the GNU, is based in Tripoli, western Libya. The parliament building in Tobruk, in the east of the country, is the seat of a rival government led by Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha.
Bashagha tried to enter and take over Tripoli because he claims the GNU is illegal and should step down. The GNU refused and asserted that power should be transferred peacefully through elections, not by force.
The municipality of Tripoli has held both the UN-recognized Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army responsible for the deterioration of the situation in the capital, according to the Libyan news agency LANA, the agency internationally recognized official government press release.
He also called on the international community to protect civilians, LANA reported.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on Saturday for an “immediate end” to the violence.
“(The Secretary-General) urges the Libyan parties to engage in meaningful dialogue to resolve the current political impasse and not to use force to resolve their differences. He further calls on the parties to protect civilians and to refrain from taking measures that could aggravate tensions and deepen divisions,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary general.
“The United Nations remains ready to offer its good offices and mediation to help Libyan actors chart a way out of the political impasse, which increasingly threatens Libya’s hard-won stability,” Dujarric said.
US Ambassador to Libya Richard B. Norland stressed the importance of “avoiding violent clashes in Tripoli”, according to a tweet from the US Embassy in Libya.
Norland said he and Presidential Council Chairman Menfi discussed the need for de-escalation on Friday, the embassy tweeted on Saturday.
“We agreed on the urgent need to finalize a constitutional basis and move towards elections, as well as the importance of taking steps to strengthen transparency and accountability in the management of Libyan oil revenues,” the tweet added. .
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya said in a tweet on Saturday that it was “deeply concerned about the ongoing armed clashes, including the medium and heavy indiscriminate shelling of civilian-populated neighborhoods in Tripoli, which have reportedly caused civilian casualties and damage to civilian facilities, including hospitals”.
“The UN calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and reminds all parties of their obligations under international human rights law and humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian objects,” the tweet added.