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A warplane attack on Tripoli’s only functioning airport left at least 28 people dead while no side has yet claimed the attack.
A warplane attacked Tripoli’s only functioning airport Monday as eastern forces advancing on the Libyan capital disregarded international appeals for a truce in the latest of a cycle of warfare since Muammar Gaddafi’s fall in 2011.
Casualties were mounting in fighting that also threatens to disrupt oil supplies, fuel migration to Europe and wreck United nations plans for an election to end rivalries between parallel administrations in the country’s east and west.
A spokesman for the Tripoli-based Health Ministry said fighting in the south of the capital had killed at least 28 people, including fighters and civilians, and wounded 80.
Mitiga airport, in an eastern suburb, was bombed and closed, authorities said. That left Misrata airport, 200 km (125 miles) to the east down the coast, as the closest option for Tripoli residents.
The eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) forces of Khalifa Haftar - a former general in Gaddafi’s army, which backs the eastern administration in Benghazi, took the oil-rich south of Libya earlier this year before advancing fast through largely unpopulated desert regions toward Tripoli.
The Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, 59, is seeking to block the LNA with the help of allied armed groups.
Serraj has run Tripoli since 2016 as part of a U.N.-brokered deal boycotted by Haftar. His Tripoli government has reported 11 deaths in the last few days, without saying on which side.
The United Nations said 2,800 people had been displaced by the clashes and many more could flee, though some were trapped.
“The United Nations continues to call for a temporary humanitarian truce to allow for the provision of emergency services and the voluntary passage of civilians, including those wounded, from areas of conflict,” it said in a statement.
U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame met Serraj in his office in Tripoli Monday to discuss “this critical and difficult juncture”, the U.N.’s Libya mission said.
The violence has jeopardized a U.N. plan for an April 14-16 conference to plan elections and end anarchy that has prevailed since the Western-backed toppling of Gaddafi.
As well as the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and G7 bloc have all urged a ceasefire, a halt to Haftar’s advance and return to negotiations.