By Moutaz Ali.
Tripoli, 24 February 2017:
Fighting in Tripoli’s Abu Sleem district has claimed another eight lives today, Abu Sleem hospital has disclosed. It follows eight deaths yesterday when the clashes between rival militias in the district began. Three of the dead were civilians, killed when a missile hit Hamza Street this afternoon.
The fighting, between the so-called Abu Sleem Central Security Force commanded by Abdul Ghani Al-Kikli (usually known as Ghneiwa) and the Salah Burki Brigade, took a decisive turn during the day when Haithem Tajouri, the leader of the Tripoli Revolutionary Bridges, sent in five tanks to support Ghneiwa.
The move helped Ghneiwa capture a number of positions belonging to the Burki Brigade in Abu Sleem and nearby areas.
Unverified reports, though, suggest widespread shelling has destroyed several buildings in the district and, as the situation rapidly worsened, the Libyan Red Crescent was unable to enter to assist locals,
“It is impossible to think about fleeing the area because all the roads are blocked. We cannot even leave our house to visit shops for fear we will be hit by stray bullets,” Kamal, an Abu Sleem resident, told the Libya Herald.
Missiles have hit other areas in the capital such as the Airport Road, which borders Abu Sleem, and neighbourhoods in the heart of the city, such as Jumhouria Street.
“Our home was damaged by a missile. We thank God it is the wall, not the window,” Siraj, a resident in Jamhouria Street, in the heart of Tripoli, told this paper.
“We don’t dare go out to see what’s happening. We heard the sound of weapons last night when my apartment window was hit by a bullet,” Elhashmi, a resident in Al-Zuhour buildings complex at the Airport Road district said.
The sound of heavy weapons was also heard tonight in southern Tripoli suburbs of Ain Zara and Khala Al-Furjan.
A temporary ceasefire, in part mediated by the Presidency Council (PC) has reportedly now been agreed, bringing some peace to Abu Sleem – but not before the Libyan National Guard (LNG), which supports the so-called National Salvation Government of Khalifa Ghwell, threatened to intervene.
“The LNG is working hard, in coordination with elders from Abu Sleem district, to pacify the situation, but at the same time, if this doesn’t work, we will intervene strongly,” it claimed in a statement posted this evening.
Burki supports it while Ghneiwa and Tajouri nominally support the PC.
There is wide belief in Tripoli that the Burki Brigade are supported by Misratan armed factions that reject the PC and the Libyan Political Agreement. Clashes between him and Ghneiwa have been regular, if intermittent. A fortnight ago, there were similar clashes between them in and around Abu Sleem.
Such are the divisions between the two that any longer-term ceasefire is thought impossible in the present circumstances.
Meanwhile, UN envoy Martin Kobler has tweeted his concern over the continuing clashes in Abu Sleem. An advisor to the PC, Hend Shubar, has warned residents against driving though a number of danger “hotspots” in Tripoli.