By Sami Zaptia.
Frankfurt, 29 August 2018:
There was heavy militia fighting in the southern suburbs of Tripoli today as the temporary ceasefire brokered by tribal and reconciliation elders on Monday night broke down.
The fighting was partly attributed to the return to Tripoli of Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade (TRB) commander Haithem Tajuri from his pilgrimage (Haj) trip to Saudi Arabia. Moreover, both sides blamed the other of making unreasonable demands during failed truce talks.
The Serraj Tripoli Ministry of Health reported 26 deaths and 75 injured. Of these, there were 15 civilian deaths and 51 civilian injuries.
There have been continued reports today of numerous incidents of indiscriminate firing of medium and heavy weapons causing damage to homes and commercial properties in Ain Zara, Salah al-Deen and Khalat al-Furjan. Even a mosque was hit by in the Salah al-Deen / Khalat Al-Furjan area.
Witnesses have seen many armoured vehicles heading towards the fighting front with reports of militias from other towns and cities possibly joining-in the fighting with one or the other of the two factions.
Moreover, the fighting took an upward turn today with the report of an ‘‘airstrike’’ against a target in Tarhuna. The strike was attributed to the Tripoli militia factions as Faiez Serraj’s official spokesperson denied that the Presidency Council and Government of National Accord
Was responsible for the airstrike. However, he did say that ‘‘all its operations are targeted at the aggressors’ sites within the capital Tripoli’’.
There have been numerous reports of the sound of aircraft hovering over Tripoli believed to be NATO reconnaissance planes. Initial Libyan media speculation that AFRICOM aircraft had carried out the Tarhuna airstrike were directly refuted by AFRICOM, according to one Libyan media outlet.
The fighting on the ground is fluid but inconclusive. Earlier today, it was reported that the Tripoli factions, led by the TRB had pushed back the Tarhuna-based Kani (7th Infantry) Brigade from some of its locations, including the Yarmouk barracks. However, by early evening it was reported that the Kani militias had retaken the barracks.
A ceasefire was called for by a number of states on Monday, including the United Nations Libya Mission, UNSMIL. Today, it further warned of attempts by some to ”tamper with the security of Tripoli and its residents. It said that it ”holds them accountable for any harm that may be inflicted on civilians. There is no justification for the bloodshed”, it added and called on ”all to spare lives, stop military mobilization and allow for mediation”.
A joint statement was also released today by France, Italy, UK, and the U.S.A in which they said they were ‘‘deeply concerned about the recent clashes’’. They ‘‘warned against any further escalation’’ and warned that those who ‘‘undermine Libya’s peace, security and stability will be held accountable’’.
Sources had said that the basis for negotiations between the two sets of militias is a return to the status quo, with both sets of militias returning to their previous zones and barracks. The plan is to hand-over the disputed checkpoints the Tripoli Security Directorate – an official state body aligned to the Faiez Serraj Presidency Council and Government of National Accord – rather than to either set of militias.
This would mean that the Tarhuna-based 7th Infantry Brigade, more popularly known as the Kani/Kaniat Brigade, owing to the fact that it is led by the Kani brothers from the city of Tarhuna, would have to give up its territorial gains of Monday. They had crept up to the Passports Authority and Yarmook barracks on the Salah al-Deen – Khalat al-Furjan road.