A shelling attack on Saturday on the only operational airport in the embattled Libyan capital of Tripoli hit fuel tanks and sparked fires, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (OIC) said amid escalating violence across the country.
Firefighters put out the blazes at the Mitiga Airport in Tripoli, OIC said in a statement issued later on Saturday, without naming those it held responsible for the attack.
However, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli pointed the finger at rival forces led by Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar.
GNA forces accused Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) of shelling the airport, thereby setting fuel tanks alight, destroying fire trucks and damaging a passenger terminal.
The shelling damaged several commercial aircraft and forced them out of operation, the GNA Transport Ministry said.
One plane was damaged before it could take off from the airport for Spain to bring home Libyans stranded there due to the coronavirus outbreak, the ministry added on its Facebook page.
The GNA also said Haftar’s forces, which are based in eastern Libya, had fired at least 80 rockets at residential areas in the vicinity of the airport and at Tripoli’s Bab Ben Ghashir District.
No details of deaths or injuries resulting from the alleged attacks have yet been given.
Haftar’s loyalists, who have been trying to capture Tripoli from the GNA since April 2019, have not yet responded to the allegations.
LNA officials have repeatedly accused their pro-GNA rivals of using Mitiga to launch drone attacks on their forces around Tripoli.
Violence between the two sides has been raging in recent weeks despite repeated international calls for a humanitarian truce in Libya to focus on the fight against the coronavirus.
The UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) condemned what it called “indiscriminate” attacks on residential areas in Tripoli.
“UNSMIL is deeply alarmed by the intensification of indiscriminate attacks at a moment when Libyans deserve to peacefully observe the [ongoing] holy month of Ramadan and a time when they are battling the COVID-19 pandemic,” the mission said in a statement.
Oil-rich Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Moamer Gaddafi, becoming a battleground for rival proxy forces.