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United States Withdraws Troops From Tripoli As UN Calls for a Ceasefire

TRIPOLI, Libya – The United States withdrew its military forces from Tripoli on Sunday in the midst of fighting in the city, the United Nations called for a two-hour ceasefire to allow civilians and wounded combatants to escape, The National reported Monday.
As Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar continued his offensive to seize the capital, the US command for Africa announced, that he had moved “a contingent of US forces” as part of the first US acknowledgement that it had forces in Libya.
The US statement does not give details on the size of the force, nor on the duration of its presence, but indicates that it plans to return the units in Libya when the situation has stabilized.
The offensive of the Libyan National Army of Marshal Haftar entered its fourth day, both sides using air strikes.
Libya is divided between the UN-backed National Accord Government and the Tobruk House of Representatives, for which the LNA is fighting.
The GNA Health Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that clashes in the south of the capital had left 11 dead and 23 wounded.
The ministry did not specify whether the victims were civilians or combatants.
GNA jets bombed LNA units on the outskirts of Tripoli, while LNA planes bombed sites in the east of the city.
The LNA said four of its positions were targeted but the bombs had missed their target.
There was no sign that either party agreed with the UN’s call for a two-hour truce.
Fighting continued around the international airport on the southwestern outskirts of the city.
LNA units patrolled near the airport, abandoned since 2014.
A soldier from eastern Libya sported the red jersey of a Benghazi football team, a sign of airport control by the LNA.
Citizens from some neighborhoods applauded and welcomed the arrival of the NLA forces.
LNA spokesman Colonel Ahmed Al Mismari said 14 soldiers were killed in the fighting and the LNA took control of the territory south of the capital, including the strategic city of Gharyan.
GNA Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj announced a counter-offensive and accused Haftar of treason after the meetings between the men this year, during which they pledged to find a political solution to the conflict. They have met several times in the last two years.
“We have extended our hands in peace, but this assault by Haftar forces will only be taken by force of decision and force,” said Al Sarraj.
Civilians trapped in Tripoli and thousands of migrants in detention centers are causing concern.
“The security of migrants in detention is of particular concern in case of escalation of military action,” said Antonio Vitorino, Director General of the International Office for Migration.
Cairo called for a political solution. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.
“Egypt supported from the start a political agreement as a tool to prevent any military solution,” said Shoukry on Saturday.
The concern of some diplomats is why Marshal Haftar has chosen to attack Tripoli now, less than two weeks before the start of peace talks between the United Nations and April 14.
The National Conference, as we know, was aimed at reaching consensus before the elections scheduled for later this year.
The peace process began in May 2017, when Marshal Haftar met with Mr. Al Sarraj in Abu Dhabi. A year later, the two men met in Paris, along with Agruila Saleh, Speaker of the House of Representatives in Tobruk, and GNA High Council President, Khalid Al Mishri.
Marshal Haftar is the military commander of Tobruk, and the Eastern Parliament has endorsed his military campaign in Paris, the four men agreed to hold elections.
The UN wanted to hold them last December, but these plans were abandoned after the meeting between Marshal Haftar and Mr Al Sarraj in Palermo last November.
The blocking point of this meeting was at the request of the field marshal that the militias of Tripoli be dissolved. The government has no military forces and relies on the most powerful militias for security.
Optimism came back in the peace process on February 27, when the United Arab Emirates held another meeting between Marshal Haftar
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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