Haftar launches missiles on Tripoli, US withdraws

Sarraj launches counterattack. UN appeal for ceasefire ignored

08 April, 11:15

    (ANSAmed) - CAIRO, APRIL 8 - General Khalifa Haftar's forces for the first time launched air strikes on Tripoli and shot Grad rockets to fight a counteroffensive by the coalition of militias defending the capital and the national unity government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, in what is increasingly looking like a battle for Tripoli.

    Sarraj also had to accept the grim news that the US, its political sponsor, withdrew a military contingent due to the increasingly bitter conflict that ignored a first-ever UN appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire.

    Tension is very high, and the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Haftar as commanding general announced that fighter jets conducted air strikes on the outskirts of Tripoli that hit with "great precision".

    Those air strikes were in retaliation after pro-Sarraj militias conducted air strikes three days ago.

    Haftar contributed to an escalation of the conflict using for the first time Grad rockets launched from Garian, the city that he controls 80 km south of Tripoli.

    Some of the rockets fell on Wadi el Rabie, 20 km as the crow flies from Tripoli's centrally located Martyrs' Square, and that strike allegedly killed a woman who had just given birth.

    The possibility of a prolonged conflict, along with the presence of Libyan National Army forces in Bab al-Azizia, an area just eight km from the centre of Tripoli, provoked a rush on stores by the local population in an attempt to stock up on basic necessities.

    Sarraj, who said he was "stabbed in the back" by Haftar, meanwhile accused the French government of supporting his rival.

    The French government called for restraint.

    The United States Africa Command (Africom) announced it had "temporarily relocated" from Libya an unspecified "contingent of US forces" due to the "increased unrest" in the country.

    Africom forces were deployed in Libya to fight al-Qaeda and ISIS, above all with drones, and to protect diplomatic buildings.

    Another contributing factor was the counteroffensive code-named "Volcano of Anger" announced and immediately enacted by Pro-Serraj militias in response to Haftar's operation "Flood of Dignity".

    Despite being controversial, the formation in defense of the prime minister said it had taken control of the strategic international airport, which has been closed since 2014 but has runways Haftar would like to use for landing supplies.

    In the most recent bulletin of the conflict, at least two-thirds of the fallen were from the general's ranks: 21 dead and 27 injured, including four civilians.

    In addition, in the announcement of the taking of prisoners (in recent hours another 70, following 128 in recent days), all were Haftar's forces, which also lost nine vehicles following the 40 reported on Friday.

    Both sides are declaring their strength and have ignored calls by the UN for a two-hour humanitarian ceasefire to move the injured out of four zones of combat.(ANSAmed).

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