There has been unprecedented deterioration in the security situation in the city of Benghazi in northeast Libya, taking a large toll on the lives of its citizens.
Benghazi – Since October 15, the fighting that has been taking place on the outskirts of the city and in some of its districts, following calls made on social media sites and by some commanders affiliated to General Khalifa Haftar, has made it impossible for the residents to carry out about their normal lives.
Clashes have intensified between Haftar’s forces and the 21st and 204th brigades in the city on the one hand, and the forces of the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries on the other. Some citizens in the city complied with calls made by the leaders of the so-called Operation Dignity, with some closing down main roads and establishing checkpoints manned by both civilians and militants.
The clashes are the most violent yet since the start of Operation Dignity in May. Movement in the city has been paralyzed, and crossing from one part of Benghazi to another is now increasingly difficult because of the checkpoints, forcing people to travel longer distances to reach their destinations.
So far, the fighting on the outskirts of the city has killed 73 people, and displaced a number of residents further inside Benghazi or outside the city. In the meantime, healthcare services have been hit hard by these clashes, as it has become difficult for hospital staff to reach their workplace.
In this regard, a doctor at al-Hawari Hospital, the second largest hospital in the city, said his staff were not coming to work out of fear for their lives. The doctor said there was a large number of injured patients at the hospital, and confirmed that some shells had fallen on the building, but without causing any injuries so far.
The doctor pointed out that patients themselves sometimes find it difficult to reach the hospital, saying that no party was working on securing it. Although the doctor said there were no shortages in medicines, he said the hospital could face difficulties when ordering drugs or tests from outside the hospital.
In the same vein, some parents have told their daughters working at hospitals in the city not to go to work because of the security situation. This has also affected the healthcare sector, especially since the proportion of women working in healthcare is relatively large.
For its part, the media office of the Red Crescent in Benghazi confirmed that its personnel are attempting to deliver aid and recover bodies from affected areas, adding that an operations room it runs was working around the clock in coordination with the parties to the conflict. The source pointed out that the Red Crescent’s capacity to cope was reduced because of the absence of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in the city, pointing out that this delayed the arrival of aid usually allocated by the international organization for conflict zones.
Meanwhile, grocers are talking about skyrocketing prices, citing the security situation and the difficulty of restocking their supplies, amid shortages in a number of goods.
Information on the security situation in the city remains scarce. Clashes have spread to different locations, but there is a lack of credible reports to help keep residents apprised of the situation, as no reporters are present on the ground near the fighting and rumors are spreading.
On the other hand, the interim Libyan government headed by Abdullah al-Thani issued a statement announcing it had ordered the army to advance toward the capital Tripoli and liberate it from the armed groups known as Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn).
In the statement, the Thani-led government said that the army forces under the command of the General Staff would enter Tripoli to liberate government installations and buildings that had been seized by the unlawful armed groups. The interim government called on “the youths of the city of Tripoli” to assist the army to liberate themselves and their regions from the rogue faction, as the statement described it.
And in the city of Ubari (southern Libya), 7 people were killed and 23 were injured in renewed fighting between Toubou tribes and the Tuareg, ending a cease-fire from September. The director of medical affairs at the Murzuq Hospital (also southern Libya) Mohammed Ali said, late on Monday evening, that 7 casualties and 23 injuries from the Toubou tribe had arrived at the General Hospital, following armed clashes with the Tuareg. Mohammed Ali said there was a severe shortage in medical personnel in the hospital and that medicines had run out, pointing out that the majority of fractures were the result of bullets, while the majority of casualties had died on the way from Ubari to Murzuq due to the lack of paramedics at the scene.
News agencies reported that battles continued to rage in Ubari until late on Monday, amid the complete disruption in communications and power supply in large parts of the city. The news agencies also quoted witnesses as saying that Tuareg militants burned down a number of homes belonging to members of the Toubou tribe in Ubari.
The director of the Libyan Red Crescent in Ubari, Amod al-Arabi, called on both sides to implement an immediate ceasefire and provide safe passage for any trapped civilians, calling on all government institutions and NGOs to provide medical relief and emergency food aid to the citizens there. Arabi also said that that the current situation in the city was catastrophic, saying that if the fighting continues for another 48 hours, Ubari would become a disaster zone.
In turn, commander of operations in the Third Force of the Libyan army, Mohammad al-Zarrat, claimed that militants from the Toubou tribe in Chad were brought in as mercenaries to the south, saying that this further destabilizes the situation in southern Libya.