Shells hit Tripoli as Haftar’s two-week siege rages

Shells slammed into a Tripoli suburb overnight, piling on the suffering to civilians from a two-week assault by commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces to take Libya’s capital from an internationally-backed government.

The rockets, just before midnight on Tuesday, hit the southern residential district of Abu Salim near a disused airport, killing at least four people and adding to a death toll the United Nations puts at more than 800. 

“This is a senseless war against civilians,” one man, Mohamed in his 40s, told Reuters among angry people in the area, where houses and cars were damaged. 

Both sides blamed each other for the attack. 

Haftar and his eastern Libyan forces have cast their advance as part of a campaign to restore order and defeat jihadists in nation gripped by anarchy since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. 

But the internationally-recognized Tripoli government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj – which has kept him at bay in the southern suburbs – views the 75-year-old general as a dangerous would-be dictator in the Gaffafi mould. 

The United Nations’ humanitarian agency the OCHA said thousands of civilians were trapped in southern districts of Tripoli due to the fighting. 

Rescuers and aid workers were having difficulty reaching them and electricity, water supplies and telecommunications have been badly disrupted, it said in a statement. 

Nearly 20,000 people have now fled their homes, some seeking shelter elsewhere in the capital but most heading out of the city. 

At least 14 civilians had been killed and about 36 wounded during the offensive, the OCHA said. 

Prime Minister Serraj toured the damaged area on Wednesday morning, his office said. Abu Salim lies about 8 km (5 miles) from the city center, behind the front line of pro-Serraj forces blocking LNA troops to their south. 

“I saw the rockets fall. This is a crime by Khalifa Haftar,” said one man who gave his name as Abdelrazaq.

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