The Libyan National Army has denied targeting civilians, saying it prioritizes the security of citizens in its operation to liberate the capital Tripoli which LNA commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar says can be done in two days.
Haftar told Russian agency Sputnik that the army places citizens' safety above all else, noting that the LNA aims at defending Tripoli residents from militia violence, but not entering the capital “at any cost.”
He indicated that the war can be ended in two days, but it would lead to the destruction of the city and heavy civilian casualties.
Haftar denied knowing the whereabouts of Saif al0Islam Gaddafi, son of late Libyan leader Muammar. He also said there was no communication between them, adding that Gaddafi is a Libyan citizen and has the right to participate in the elections.
“If the legal conditions are met, it is his natural right,” said Haftar in reference to Gaddafi’s recent statement on running in the upcoming presidential election.
However, the LNA commander explained that ending the military operations doesn’t automatically mean the atmosphere will be ready for elections.
Asked about running in the polls, Haftar indicated he was not concerned about that, asserting that the country needs to enhance its security and socioeconomic conditions first.
Meanwhile, head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj visited the location of an airstrike in Tripoli’s al-Fernaj neighborhood where a woman and three of her children were killed, and many others injured. In a statement, he extended his condolences to the woman’s husband
He also inspected abutting buildings, including the headquarters of the Ministry of Health and a mosque, which were damaged by the strike.
Following the attack, the United Nations Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) issued a statement expressing its shock, and condemning “in the strongest possible terms the reckless disregard for the lives of innocent people."
It called for the immediate cessation of such indiscriminate attacks.
“It is particularly egregious that the attack comes a few days after the attack on the Equestrian Club in Tripoli which also injured a number of children,” the mission said.
UNSMIL reaffirmed that it will not stand idly by and watch war crimes being committed, and innocent lives being lost, almost every day.
US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland also in a statement, said the Embassy was “sickened by reports that three young sisters were killed in an aerial bombing conducted in Tripoli by forces laying siege to the capital.”
It indicated that these “tragic and senseless” deaths must unite everyone in calling for an immediate end to the fighting and the start of a political process leading to lasting peace in Libya."
The LNA leadership denied responsibility for the bombing, and accused armed militias loyal to the GNA of being behind the attack.
LNA spokesman Major General Ahmed al-Mesmari said the army’s air strikes and ground operations are highly accurate.
He also denied bombing any civilian targets, saying the “gangs” are fabricating baseless allegations.