UNSMIL head condemns LNA airstrike on Mitiga airport

By Sami Zaptia.

London, 8 April 2019:

UNSMIL head Ghassan Salame condemned the airstrikes today by Libyan National Army (LNA) aircraft against Mitiga airport. Mitiga is Tripoli’s only functioning airport available for civilian use.  ‘‘As such’’, Salame said, ‘‘this attack constitutes a serious violation of international humanitarian law which prohibits attacks against civilian infrastructure’’.

However, Salame’s statement omitted to add that the Mitiga airport complex is a multi-purpose complex, being a prison and a military airbase. It was, after all, the American Wheelus airbase. 

Salame added that the attack on Mitiga took place ‘‘as part of an escalation of violence on the ground in areas around Tripoli and Western Libya.  The United Nations is deeply concerned for the welfare of the civilian population in the ongoing violence, and of the implications of the attack on the airport’’.

Salame called ‘‘for an immediate halt to any further air operations to de-escalate and limit the prospects for the full outbreak of conflict and the effective start of a civil war.  He also called ‘‘on all Members States to use their influence over the parties to stop further conflict and engage in immediate dialogue to reach a political solution’’.

The LNA airstrikes against Mitiga took place at around lunchtime leading to its immediate evacuation and closure. All flights were cancelled with those returning or on route were diverted to Misrata. There were no casualties reported and it is still unclear what damage was caused by the airstrike.

It is believed that the strike was in retaliation to GNA-affiliated airstrikes against the LNA in fighting locations and at the Witya airbase that allegedly took off from Mitiga and Misrata.

There were also unconfirmed reports of GNA air strikes against Hafter-aligned forces in Sukna in Central Libya. If confirmed, this would be an attempt to cut off Hafter’s logistics and supply lines from the east at the strategically important location in central Libya.

Meanwhile, 49 House of Representatives (HoR) members today condemned the LNA attack on Tripoli and called for an immediate ceasefire. They confirmed their belief in a peaceful political solution through the National Conference in Ghadames planned for 14-16 April and a civilian state.

On the other hand, the newly re-elected head of the High State Council, Khaled Mishri, called yesterday for the arrest of Khalifa Hafter.

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