Flights suspended after Tripoli's Mitiga airport comes under fire
Airport officials said all flights have been suspended until further notice [Mahmud Turkia/AFP]
The only functioning airport in Libya’s capital has suspended its operations after coming under attack despite a tenuous truce that world powers have pushed warring parties to respect.
Rocket fire forced the suspension of all flights into and out of the airport in Tripoli on Wednesday, only nine days after it reopened, in what Government of National Accord (GNA) forces spokesman Mohammed Gnunu branded a “flagrant threat” to the safety of air traffic and a “new violation” of the ceasefire.
There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The airport said it would halt all flights until further notice. A Libyan Airlines flight from Tunis was forced to divert to Misrata, 200 kilometres (124 miles) east of the capital.
The resumption of shelling on Mitiga International Airport put a recent ceasefire brokered earlier this month by Russia and Turkey on shaky ground, as diplomatic efforts to halt the long-running civil war intensify.
It was not immediately clear who launched the attack, but suspicion fell on renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar‘s eastern-based forces, which have been laying siege to the capital for months in a bid to wrest authority from the United Nations-recognised government.
Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli has threatened to plunge Libya into chaos rivalling the 2011 conflict that removed and killed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Despite repeated appeals from UN envoy Ghassan Salame, Mitiga has been the target of several air raids and rocket attacks since Haftar’s forces launched their offensive last April.
Haftar’s forces, which accuse the GNA of using Mitiga for military purposes, say they target “Turkish drones” being launched from the airport to attack their troops in southern Tripoli. The GNA has denied the accusations.
On Sunday, world powers with interests in the conflict convened at a peace summit in Berlin, where they pledged to halt foreign interference, honour a widely violated arms embargo and support a UN-facilitated political process.