UN says eastern city is without power and water as residents face air raids and shelling from Khalifa Haftar’s forces.
Fighting in Derna has escalated to unprecedented levels, with air raids and shelling of residential areas, the UN has said, as an activist inside the besieged Libyan city warns residents have run out of food and medicine.
The UN humanitarian office said on Thursday that electricity and water had been completely cut off for the city’s 125,000 people as forces loyal to renegade general Khalifa Haftar pressed their assault against the city’s defenders, known as the Derna Protection Forces (DPF).
An activist calling herself the “Lioness of Derna” on Twitter told Middle East Eye on Friday that there was no solution to the city’s distress, and railed at the international community for ignoring the carnage.
“Sadly, things are a lot worse, and are worsening,” she said. “And the international community is silent on the crimes being committed in Derna.
“There’s no food, no medicine, and there are more deaths every day from the random air strikes. And there is no solution.”
The UN report stated that both sides were responsible for the carnage.
“Local sources report that DPF are currently taking positions among civilian infrastructure in residential areas, mostly in the centre of the city and reportedly in civilian clothing,” the report said, adding that civilians were being prevented from leaving the city.
The UN said no aid has entered the city since mid-March, apart from a delivery of kidney dialysis materials and medication earlier this week.
The eastern city has been encircled since July by the Libyan National Army, or LNA, whose commander Haftar opposes the internationally recognised government based in the country’s west.
Haftar’s surge over recent days overshadowed high-level talks in Paris on Tuesday that tried to chart a way out of Libya’s turmoil and set a goal of holding elections in December.
Following fighting on Wednesday, the LNA took control of most entry points to Derna from the west, LNA spokesman Abdulkarim Sabra said.
The LNA has also claimed control of the city’s al-Fatayih industrial zone and strategic hills over the Bab Tubruk district.
Electricity supply was restored early on Thursday after maintenance to a power station that was hit by shelling earlier in the week, according to Sabra and a Derna resident.
LNA forces have had about 20 men killed and 35 wounded since the fighting intensified in Derna earlier this month, mostly due to mines, Sabra added.
He estimated that more than 100 DPF combatants had been killed and that another 100 had handed themselves in. The numbers could not be independently verified.
The LNA says it is targeting militants including foreign fighters with links to al-Qaeda. Its critics say the LNA has branded all its opponents as “terrorists”, as it tries to seize the only city in eastern Libya outside its control.
Until this month, the LNA’s campaign had been largely limited to occasional air strikes and bombardments. Since 22 May, indiscriminate shelling had killed at least five civilians, including two children, the UN said.
Neighbouring Egypt, which backs the LNA, has also carried out air strikes in Derna against what it said were training camps sending militants into Egypt to carry out attacks.
Separately, an LNA battalion said it had repelled an attack early on Thursday against its positions at Tamanhent air base in Libya’s central desert. It has controlled the base since May last year.
– MEE’s Nadine Dahan contributed to this story
Top Photo: A school in the Hai Khadija area of Derna destroyed by shelling (Screengrab)