Tripoli’s only functional airport was bombed by a warplane on Monday as eastern forces making progress towards the Libyan capital disobeyed international requests for a truce in the latest cycle of battle since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s in 2011.
Casualties were climbing in a battle that also threatens to upset oil supplies, fuel migration to Europe and ruin U.N. plans for an election to end clashes between parallel administrations in the nation’s east and west.
The eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) forces of Khalifa Haftar – a former general in Gaddafi’s army – stated that 19 of its soldiers died in past days as they approached on the internationally acknowledged government in Tripoli.
A spokesman for the Tripoli-based Health Ministry stated that encounter in the south of the capital had killed around 25 people, which includes fighters and civilians, and injured 80.
Mitiga airport, in an eastern suburb, was bombarded and closed. Ghassan Salame, the U.N. envoy to Libya, chastised the air assault as “a serious breach of humanitarian law”.
A spokesman for the LNA affirmed the strike, stating his force had not aimed civilian planes, but only a MiG parked at Mitiga. The airport closedown left Misrata airport, 200 km (125 miles) to the east down the coast, as the nearest option for Tripoli residents.
Haftar’s LNA, which supports the eastern administration in Benghazi, took the oil-rich south of Libya earlier this year before progressing fast through largely unpopulated desert regions toward Tripoli.
Capturing the capital is a bigger challenge. The LNA has carried out air strikes on the south of the city as it looks to advance along a road from an obsolete former international airport.
On Monday afternoon the LNA had lost control of the old airport and withdrawn from positions on the airport road. On Sunday evening, LNA forces had moved upward from the airport, coming as close as 11 km (7 miles) from the city center before abandoning.