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Tripoli’s Residents Prepare to Flee Despite Harsh Weather

Tripoli’s Residents Prepare to Flee Despite Harsh Weather

Thursday, 2 January, 2020 - 12:15
Fighters loyal to the Libyan internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) fire a heavy machine gun during clashes against forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, on May 21, 2019. (Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

With the sound of artillery in the background, some of the families in al-Zuhoor neighbourhood, in the south of Libya's capital Tripoli, packed some of their belongings and furniture into large trucks, hoping to escape the war that transformed their area into a war zone.

Thousands have fled the capital because of that war that has been ongoing for months, since the military operation began last April, leaving behind their homes, many of which were destroyed by mutual bombardment, fleeing to Abou Sleem and Ein Zara under terrible weather conditions.

Moaz al-Ruweissi, who hails from Salah al-Din, which has been bombarded several times, says that the area “has become almost empty of its residents, all of them escaped the shelling,” adding that “the majority of the people here leave with few of their belongings, without knowing where to go, especially after the bombs claimed the lives of children from the Zleetini family."

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said: "the continuous shelling of the neighborhood put the children and the elderly in a permanent state of terror."

He pointed out that "everyone is searching for refuge and they are no longer concerned about leaving their possessions because everyone is looking to escape death."

According to the UN mission, the number of displaced citizens is close to 150,000. But local groups say that the number is expected to increase in the coming days if things don't change and the areas of clashes expand, especially as they reach the densely populated plateau area.

Amid complaints from the displaced citizens, who are now forced to reside out in the open, the Nation Accord Government announced, in the middle of this week, that maintenance work on the municipal hotel in the Abu Salim area was almost finished, in anticipation of the arrival of more displaced families from new areas.

The images issued by the Government Communication Department show Ahmed Mitaiq, Vice-President of the Presidential Council and Chairman of the Higher Committee for Displaced Persons, who was inspecting the hotel alongside Abd al-Rahman al-Hamidi, the head of Abu Salim's municipality, and instructed government agencies to “take the steps needed to house the displaced families in the hotel”.

Many of the families who were displaced in the early stages took residence in idle schools and factories, amid severe shortages of food and other basic needs; recently, with the start of the (postponed) school season, some families were asked to vacate schools so that they could open ‏their doors.

In its statement earlier, the Libyan National Council for Human Rights mentioned: "humanitarian tragedy and great suffering in Tripoli, the first victim of which are innocent children, women, and civilians, and rates of displacement and destruction have increased."

The accumulation of events forced several families to temporarily reside in the vicinity of residential buildings outside the war zones, while others took refuge in uninhabited buildings, which lack basic needs like electricity, water, and lavatories.

Local NGOs try to compensate for the government’s weak presence by providing displaced people in different areas with food and blankets. However, Faraji Abu Salem, one of the IDPs from Salah al-Din says that the aid they receive from citizens ’donations does not suffice, and that “Frost is almost killing citizens, who live in houses that lack doors and windows, in addition to the absence of water and electricity.”

Speaking in a local accent, Bu Salem added: "People are living in misery ... they live in cave-like homes, and it seems that this situation will persist for a long time, so there is no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope for us to return home."

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