By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 1 August 2014:
The Tunisian government has carried out Wednesday’s threat to close the border with Libya. A . . .[restrict]partial closure followed this morning’s shooting and wounding in the leg of a local security chief and what the Tunisian government has called an attempt to storm the border by “a massive number of people of different nationalities”.
The Tunisian news agency TAP has reported that there were “suspicious elements”, including a large number of Egyptians without visas, among those trying to force their way past immigration police at Ras Jedir.
According to other reports, in an attempt to restore order at the crossing, Tunisian border guards fired into the air. Libyan guards on the other side of the border, thinking the Tunisians were firing at them shot back, wounding the head of security for the border district of Ben Gardane.
The closure affects those trying to enter Tunisia, not those wanting to cross into Libya, and is expected to be temporary.
The Tunisian government’s crisis group monitoring the situation in Libya met yesterday under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa and agreed to help foreigners fleeing Libya to return to their home countries as quickly as possible. Tunisia would be a country of transit, not of refuge, the group said. It also agreed to increase security on the border.
Meanwhile, 225 Egyptians who had left Libya flew from Djerba to Cairo today in an air bridge operation to evacuate Egyptians fleeing the troubles in Libya, set up by the Egyptian Aviation Ministry in operation with the Tunisia Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Tunisian Prime Minister and his Egyptian counterpart Ibrahim Mahlab spoke today on the phone about making provisions for Egyptians fleeing Libya via Tunisia. According to TAP, “thousands of Egyptians” are now fleeing across the border to Tunisia in a bid to escape the violence in Tripoli.
The Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs today also called on all Tunisians still in Libya to return home as quickly as possible “because of the events and the deterioration in the security situation in several Libyan towns and cities”.
Despite closing the border, the Tunisian Foreign Ministry said that Libyans were welcome in Tunisia providing they did not get involved in any political activities that could damage relations between the two countries or undermine public order.
Tunisia said that it was “neutral” over the current power struggle in Libya.