#LIBYANWAR: Turkey threatens to directly confront Libyan Army after attack on headquarters

Libya says 4 killed in rocket attacks as Turkey warns Haftar

Turkey threatened on Sunday to target the Libyan National Army (LNA) after the bombing that was carried out on Saturday in the Mitiga Airport in Tripoli, stressing that the operations carried out by it are targeting Turkish interests.

UN recognised Libya's Government of National Accord in Tripoli said Sunday at least four civilians, including a child, were killed as rockets rained down on the capital Tripoli and damaged its only working airport.

Turkish backed GNA blamed Saturday's attacks on eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar, who has been waging a campaign to take control of the capital since April last year.

At least four civilians, including a five-year-old girl, were killed and 16 others wounded in the working-class districts of Abu Slim and Ben Gashir, south of the city, the GNA's health ministry spokesman Amin al-Hashemi said. Dozens of rockets also targeted Mitiga airport, hitting a civilian aircraft lined up to repatriate Libyans stuck abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic, the GNA statement added.

Turkey warned that Haftar's forces would become "legitimate targets" if such attacks continued.

In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said, “The attacks of the forces (Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan National Army, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar) targeting diplomatic missions in Tripoli, including the Turkish embassy, ​​civil aircraft at Mitiga Airport, and civilian infrastructure, are considered a war crime.”

“The Haftar elements will be considered a legitimate target if our diplomatic missions and our interests in Libya are targeted,” the statement said, adding that “the silence of the United Nations in the face of the brutal attacks of Haftar’s forces is unacceptable.”

 “The countries that support Haftar militarily, financially and politically bear the responsibility for the injustice that the Libyan people are subjected to, and the chaos and instability prevailing in the country.” The Turkish Foreign Ministry added.

On Saturday, the Government of National Accord (GNA) announced that residential neighborhoods in the vicinity of Mitiga Airport and Bab Ghashir area in the capital Tripoli had been subjected to missile strikes, while the Libyan National Oil Corporation announced serious damage to aviation fuel tanks of the Brega Oil Marketing Company in an airport warehouse.

Overnight Thursday to Friday, rockets fell on Tripoli's Zawiyat al-Dahmani neighbourhood, which is home to the GNA foreign ministry and the Italian and Turkish embassies.

An airport source said the passenger halls and two civilian planes sustained serious damage. Images of an aircraft with its fuselage ripped open and of a badly damaged runway and airport buildings were posted on social media.

- 'Weakness and desperation' -

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) called the bombardment "an all too familiar but frightening spectacle".

"These horrifying attacks occur on a regular basis in close proximity to civilian neighbourhoods," UNSMIL said on Twitter. It called the shelling "one in a series of indiscriminate attacks, most of which are attributable to pro-LNA (Haftar) forces, killing more than 15 and injuring 50 civilians since 1 May".

Since Wednesday, 17 civilians and two police officers have been killed and more than 66 other civilians wounded in rocket fire targeting several areas of the capital, according to the GNA.

UNSMIL slammed the attacks hitting civilians and civilian infrastructure and called for "those responsible for crimes under international law to be brought to justice".

But the GNA said international condemnation was not enough.

"We no longer pay any attention to the timid condemnations of the international community, incapable as it is of naming" Haftar, holding him to account or stopping those supporting him, the GNA said. "The senseless acts... of the past days... are proof of his weakness and desperation after the successive defeats of his militias and mercenaries," it added.

Haftar's forces have suffered several setbacks in recent weeks, with GNA fighters ousting them from two key coastal cities west of Tripoli in April.

Backed by Turkey, GNA troops now surround Haftar's main rear base at Tarhuna, southeast of the capital.

Turkey's foreign ministry said the international community had a "collective responsibility" to stop "putschist Haftar".

Foreign military involvement in Libya has exacerbated the conflict, with the United Arab Emirates and Russia backing Haftar.

World leaders at a Berlin meeting in January committed to ending foreign meddling and to upholding a 2011 weapons embargo, but the UN has warned that both sides have continued to receive arms and fighters.

Turkey has mobilised weapons and more than 10,000 fighters to support the Tripoli GNA government.

(With AFP / Almasdar)

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