By Maha Sulaiman, Ayman Amzein and Adam Ali.
Benghazi, 25 March 2015:
Benghazi witnessed some of its heaviest clashes in recent weeks when . . .[restrict]the LNA launched a fierce offensive on Ansar Al-Sharia, IS and their allies in a number of locations throughout the city last night. The offensive, codenamed Operation Martyrs, was in response to yesterday morning’s suicide bombing in Leithi in which seven people died.
Forces from the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shoura Council – the umbrella military organisation grouping Ansar and other militants including, it now seems, IS – in turn responded with a barrage of random mortar throughout the night. At least two civilians were killed and four others wounded in the city’s Sidi Hussein district although mortars also fell in Kish, Reheba, Tabalino as well as in Fuwayhat’s Pepsi Street and Belaoun.
“It was raining mortars,” one Benghazi resident told the Libya Herald. “It was very frightening. I was awake all night with the noise.”
The fighting started in the mid-evening with LNA aircraft targeting Leithi, Buatni and Gwarsha districts. This was followed by tanks moving into the areas. In Shara Al-Nafaq in Hadaiq, not far from Leithi, there were gunfire between Ansar and LNA forces. Early this morning there were more air strikes in Leithi, Buatni and Gwarsha.
The two civilians killed in Sidi Hussein yesterday have been named as Adham Faraj Saleh Al-Wafi, aged 16, and Mohamed Jamal Al-Barasi. A 13-year old, thought to be related, Ahmed Mohamed Barasi, was among the injured.
According to Benghazi Medical Centre spokesman, Khalil Gwaider, the bodies of 17 people killed in the fighting, as a result of random mortar attacks or in yesterday’s suicide bombing have been brought in during the past 24 hours and 15 injured are being treated. Jalaa Hospital is treating another 12 either injured in fighting or by randomly fired mortars. In both cases, there is no breakdown as to who is military and who civilian.
Most of the fighting died down with the dawn this morning. Since them the city has been uneerily quiet. Early this afternoon, a time Benghazi is normally busy even during the clashes in Leithi, there was hardly a vehicle on the streets. However, checkpoints were heavily manned by LNA forces. [/restrict]