Cairo - Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are advancing on Tripoli, is rallying his fighters on, despite UN calls for a weeklong cease-fire to coincide with the start of Ramadan on Monday.
The battle for the Libyan capital, which erupted in early April, has threatened to ignite a civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The fighting has killed at least 432 people so far, including combatants and civilians, according to the UN health agency.
Haftar, based in the country’s east, is seeking to take over the city and defeat militias loosely allied to a UN-supported government in Tripoli.
Last week, the UAE blamed extremist militias in Tripoli for derailing peace efforts. “Priority in Libya to counter
extremism/terrorism & support stability in long drawn out crisis,” Gargash said in a tweet.
He blamed radical militias for obstructing an agreement reached in Abu Dhabi in February between Haftar and the head of
the Tripoli-based government Fayez Al Serraj on the necessity of holding long-delayed elections in Libya as part of a
UN-brokered peace process. “Abu Dhabi agreement offered opportunity to support UN led process. Meanwhile extremist militias continue to control Capital & derail search for political solution,” Gargash said.
The World Health Organisation said Monday that along with the 432 killed, 2,069 people have been wounded. The fighting has also displaced more than 50,000 people, WHO said.
The UN has repeatedly called for an end to the fighting. On Sunday, the UN mission said a “one-week humanitarian truce” would begin at 4am Monday and called on all parties to cease military operations, including reconnaissance and mobilisation.
The truce would come as many Muslims across the world begin observing the fasting month of Ramadan.
But in released comments, Haftar said Ramadan had not been a reason to halt previous battles when he took the eastern cities of Benghazi and Derna.
“I salute you in these glorious days and urge you, with your strength and determination, to teach the enemy a greater and bigger lesson than the previous ones ... till we uproot them from our beloved land,” Haftar said.
Over the past days, the fighting has been centred along the southern parts of the capital, where Haftar’s forcers attempted to breach the militia defences.
Haftar previously challenged the UN when he ordered his troops to march on Tripoli even as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting the North African country to push for a UN-brokered conference. That gathering, which was aimed at bridging the gap among Libya’s factions and drawing a roadmap for new elections, eventually fell apart and was postponed amid the violence.