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Libya's Haftar supporters rally despite heavy losses in Tripoli siege

Haftar's supporters hold an effigy of Turkish President Erdogan during a demonstration in Benghazi [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 April, 2020

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Despite suffering major setbacks in his campaign to capture Tripoli, Haftar presented a plan for drafting a constitution and holding elections, prompting supporters to rally in the streets.
Eastern Libya's military commander Khalifa Haftar spoke of a plan to pave "the way for building a civil state", following an escalation in the war-torn country's violent standoff.

The fight for the country's capital has been raging for nearly a year between Haftar's forces, which are allied with a rival government based in eastern Libya, and an array of militias in the west loosely linked to the UN-supported authorities in Tripoli.

As international pressure mounts on both sides to halt the violence over concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus, the president of Libya's Eastern-based House of Representatives proposed to form a presidential council by consensus or vote among Libyan regional representatives and under the supervision of the United Nations.

Aguila Saleh's proposal included the formation of a committee of experts and intellectuals to develop and draft a constitution for the country, after which presidential and parliamentary elections would be organised.

Earlier, Haftar accused the UN-backed Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj, of committing a number of crimes.

In-depth: Libya is catastrophically ill-equipped to battle a coronavirus outbreak. Here's why

After Haftar's speech, large groups of people took to the streets in support of him and the Libyan National Army, chanting slogans against the Presidential Council and against Turkish military intervention in the country.

Eastern-based forces under the command of Khalifa Haftar have been laying siege to Tripoli since last April, trying to wrest the city from the UN-backed government.

Haftar has received backing from the UAE, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Syrian regime among others.

The fighting has settled into a chaotic stalemate. Buttressed by Turkish air power, Western militias have allied with the beleaguered Tripoli government, reversed the tide in recent weeks and regained lost ground along the western coast.

GNA forces last weekend attacked Tarhuna, the main western stronghold and supply line of Haftar's forces 72 km (45 miles) southeast of Tripoli.

In recent weeks, Haftar's forces have escalated their use of Grad rockets and artillery shells in Tripoli's densely populated neighborhoods, which by nature cannot be fired precisely and place civilians at grave risk.

The offensive on Tripoli has resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 people, injured close to 6,000 and forced 120,000 people from their homes, according to UN figures.

Evidence for Haftar's complicity in war crimes are mounting. Amnesty International have reported that the rogue general's forces have engaged in indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, such as residential areas and medical facilities.

Most recently, the UN-backed government accused Russian mercenaries fighting on behalf of Haftar's LNA of using chemical weapons against Libyan forces in southern Tripoli.



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