Fighting Escalates in Libya’s Derna with Devastating Impact on Civilians

Forces loyal to the renegade General Khalifa Haftar have tightened the noose around the eastern city of Derna, at a time the UN warns of a “devastating impact” on civilians.

Haftar’s forces have encircled the city to oust a coalition of local fighters and Islamists known as the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC).

The humanitarian coordinator at the UN mission UNSMIL, Maria Ribeiro, said in a statement that the humanitarian community in Libya is perturbed by the continued lack of humanitarian access and subsequent assistance into Derna despite repeated requests.

She deplored that humanitarian assistance was blocked from being delivered to civilians in Derna. “Shortages in medicine and medical supplies are reaching critical levels and the first food shortages are being reported,” she added.

Seven years after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, Libya remains in turmoil, battered by infighting between heavily armed militias and a political crisis that has divided the country.

A 2015 UN-backed deal to set up the unity government in Tripoli was meant to end the turmoil but the gap between Libya’s east and west is yet to be bridged.

Libya has remained riven by divisions between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and a rival administration backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east.

The internationally recognized GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, has failed to assert its authority across the oil-rich country, which is also grappling with deadly attacks, and a migration crisis.

Despite the ongoing political crisis, the OPEC member has registered a much-needed increase in crude sales, which analysts see as key to kick-starting Libya’s moribund economy and returning security to the country.

Libya’s oil revenues more than tripled in 2017 despite the violence and political instability – though they are still a fraction of crude sales under Gaddafi.

 

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