More than seven years after NATO launched a regime change war in Libya on the side of anti-Gaddafi rebels, the West is again being asked to intervene as the country further descends into civil war.
Except this time it’s the internationally recognized government since installed in Tripoli that is at war with itself, and the death toll from inter-factional fighting since August has now reached over 100 and is growing as street battles in Tripoli suburbs rage, causing leaders to urge the United Nations to act.
The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) issued a statement late Friday calling on the U.N. to take “concrete and effective” action to protect civilians and halt fighting near the capital. The GNA urged the UN mission to “present the Security Council with the reality of the bloody events in Libya so that it can… protect the lives and property of civilians”.
On Friday alone clashes in Tripoli left 15 dead and dozens more wounded, according to official health ministry statements.
Since fresh fighting again erupted in Tripoli on August 26 (there’s been internecine battles in the capital for years), whole sections of the city have been shut down, especially the southern suburbs where initial street battles began, which has witnessed the shelling of residential areas, street-to-street fighting, and tanks in the streets — all reminiscent of the 2011 war which eventually led to a NATO air campaign and forcible removal and assassination of Libya’s longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
According to international reports, some of the feuding militias have come mostly from Libya’s third city Misrata and the town of Tarhouna southeast of the capital; however, the early weeks of fighting were driven mostly by rival factions within the GNA itself.
On Friday UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a statement through his spokesman, saying he is “alarmed by the increasing number of violations of the ceasefire agreement.” Guterres called on the warring militias to respect a prior truce and to “refrain from any actions that would increase the suffering of the civilian population”.
He said groups responsible for “the violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law must be held responsible,” according to the statement.
Previously the UN Support Mission in Libya voiced concerns over “the use of indiscriminate fire and heavy weapons in densely populated residential areas.”
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) September 22, 2018
Since the NATO-backed overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has remained split between rival parliaments and governments in the east and west, with militias and tribes lining up behind each, resulting in fierce periodic clashes.
In March 2011 the UN passed Resolution 1973 which authorized the imposition of a No Fly Zone over Libya, ostensibly to protect civilians from pro-Gaddafi forces. The US, UK, France, and other NATO and Gulf allies bombed the country while claiming to act in the name of democracy and human rights.
Though the recently “liberated” Libya has remained conflict-prone after NATO and US forces promised an “Arab Spring”-style “blossoming of democracy” — things have clearly only gone from worse to worse as the capital now again slides toward full blown civil war. Welcome to the “new” Libya.