Tripoli: Dozens of Victims in Violent Clashes Between ‘Buqarah,’ ‘Deterrent’ Militias

A plane, that was damaged during clashes, is seen at Mitiga airport in Tripoli, Libya, January 15, 2018. Reuters
A plane, that was damaged during clashes, is seen at Mitiga airport in Tripoli, Libya, January 15, 2018. Reuters
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Tripoli: Dozens of Victims in Violent Clashes Between ‘Buqarah,’ ‘Deterrent’ Militias

A plane, that was damaged during clashes, is seen at Mitiga airport in Tripoli, Libya, January 15, 2018. Reuters
A plane, that was damaged during clashes, is seen at Mitiga airport in Tripoli, Libya, January 15, 2018. Reuters

The Libyan capital witnessed Monday heavy arms clashes near the International Airport and a local prison, killing up to 16 people, injuring dozens of others and disrupting air traffic amid information that the attackers were seeking the release of radical prisoners.

"The criminal militia known as Bashir Khalafullah, aka Bashir Buqarah, and all the criminals wanted by the Deterrent Force attacked the International Airport after escaping (jail) and joining the militia," the Special Deterrent Force (Rada) in charge of securing the airport said in a statement.

Militias led by Khalafullah, loyal to the former Salvation Government led by Khalifa al-Ghawil and based in the Tajoura district of the eastern suburb of the capital, launched an attack using heavy arms at dawn on Mitiga International Airport and a nearby prison.

The attack was repelled by the Special Deterrent Force, led by Abdul Rauf Kara, and an operation to secure the area was ongoing.

Photographs of the streets surrounding the airport were posted on Rada’s official Facebook page, showing pick-up trucks mounted with guns, armored vehicles and a tank.

Rada noted that the attackers are being dealt with "until they are defeated and expelled from the Mitiga airport and the prison, where more than 2,500 inmates are detained on various charges."

Mitiga is a military air base near the center of Tripoli that began hosting civilian flights after the international airport was put out of service in 2014.

Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said the attackers sought the release of al-Qaeda and ISIS prisoners held at a major jail in the airport facility. Two cargo planes were hit in the fighting and a nearby highway was shut.

He denounced what he called a “premeditated” attack on the airport.

At least 20 people were killed in the clashes and 60 wounded, including civilians, a health ministry official said.

Heavy gunfire could be heard outside the airport and all roads to Mitiga were closed.

Security forces reporting to the interior ministry said both civilians and military areas of the airport were under control and undamaged, and that “a group of outlaw attackers has been apprehended”.



Food Piles Up at Gaza Crossing as Aid Agencies Say Unable to Work

Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
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Food Piles Up at Gaza Crossing as Aid Agencies Say Unable to Work

Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP

Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat, AFP reported.

More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.

Desperation among Gaza's 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.

Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.

"The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza," the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a briefing late Friday.

"Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations."

But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the United Nations over why the aid is stacking up.

It shared aerial footage of containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.

With civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.

A deputy UN spokesman this week said the crossing "is operating with limited functionality, including because of fighting in the area".

William Schomburg, International Committee of the Red Cross chief in Rafah, said arranging lorries from the Egyptian side in particular was complicated.

"It's not just a question of civil order, but also the fact that you often have to cross battlefields," he said in an online briefing, adding that the area near Kerem Shalom had been hostile.

"There were even rockets fired nearby. So this whole area is particularly complicated to navigate for reasons linked to the hostilities and for reasons linked to general security."

Israel's coordinator for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, said Thursday "the content of 1,200 aid trucks awaits collection by UN aid agencies", saying a lack of distribution was responsible.

Earlier in the week, COGAT spokesman Shimon Freedman told reporters at the crossing the daily pause on a southern road into Gaza was designed to allow the UN "to collect and distribute more aid" alongside an Israeli military presence.

He said most of the aid had not moved because "organizations have not taken sufficient steps to improve their distribution capacity".

Aid agencies have instead pointed to Israel's offensive on the southern city of Rafah, which pushed out more than a million people and closed a border crossing with Egypt, as a deepening humanitarian crisis hampered relief efforts.

Schomburg described Rafah City as a "ghost town".

"It is a ghost town in the sense that you see very few people, high levels of destruction, and really just another symbol of the unfolding tragedy that has become Gaza over the last nine months," he said.

The UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by "desperate people".

As both sides stall, it is the civilians in Gaza who are paying the price.

"We don't see any aid. Everything we get to eat comes from our own money and it's all very expensive," said Umm Mohammad Zamlat, 66, from northern Gaza but now living in Khan Yunis in the south.

"Even agencies specialized in aid deliveries are not able to provide anything to us," she added.