Libya fighting escalates as Khalifa Haftar's forces bomb Tripoli airport

There has been heavy fighting near Tripoli since the assault began

Clashes between rival Libyan forces for control of Tripoli escalated on Monday as the death toll from days of fighting rose to at least 51, including both combatants and civilians, and the city's only functioning airport said it was hit by an airstrike. He pointed out that 40 people have also been injured.

Libya is now split by two rival factions, with one supporting Haftar in the east, and another based in Tripoli in the west including a UN-backed government.

Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman Ahmed Mismari said at a press conference on Tuesday that terrorists gathered in the city of Sirte meant to attack the so-called Oil Crescent, oil-rich areas on the coast in the eastern part of the country from the city of Tobruk to As Sidr.

Since Thursday, clashes have broken out in a number of areas on the outskirts of Tripoli, including at the disused global airport on the city's southern edge. "Volcano of Anger" trapped Haftar's Al-Wadi Brigade in the city of Sabratha.

The World Health Organization said two doctors were killed trying to "evacuate wounded patients from conflict areas".

According to the report, the security situation in western Libya is still "unclear and unpredictable".

Dozens of people have been killed and thousands displaced in the fighting since Haftar's forces launched their onslaught against Tripoli and its unity government on Thursday, April 4.

Libya's falling into civil war again, after its division into areas under the control of rival factions since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, threatens to block oil and gas supplies, increase immigration to Europe, and allow Islamist extremists to take advantage of the chaos.

The UN mission in Libya said on Twitter that Salame met Monday with unity government head Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli to discuss how to "assist at this critical and hard juncture".

The LNA had made air strikes on the south of the city as it seeks to advance into the centre from the disused airport.

Despite repeated worldwide calls for a truce, clashes have intensified, with dozens of people killed on both sides.

Al-Sarraj has been heading the Tripoli government since 2016 under a UN-mediated agreement, which Haftar has boycotted.

The LNA, allied with a parallel eastern administration based in Benghazi, took the oil-rich south of Libya earlier this year before its surprisingly fast push toward the coastal capital.

By Monday, however, the campaign appeared to have lost momentum, with pro-GNA forces recapturing two military bases near the capital after they were briefly seized by Haftar's forces.

The offensive has raised fears of return to all-out war in Libya and left a question mark over the UN-led effort to lay the groundwork for elections with the 14 to 16 April conference.

The previous day, fighting raged throughout a two-hour window set by the United Nations for a pause in hostilities for civilians and the wounded to flee.

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