(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
For two years, Ganfouda, a suburb in south Benghazi, has been under siege by General Khalifa Haftar’s “Operation Dignity.” The UN-backed unity government and human rights organizations have documented that between 126 to 133 civilian families are currently being held captive. Haftar’s forces continue to attack Ganfouda by sea, land and air, demolishing homes and killing over 30 civilians, including women and children.
Little international attention has been given to Ganfouda considering it is facing a humanitarian crisis. In July 2016, Human Rights Solidarity, a Libyan human rights organization, reported that 133 families were held captive in Ganfouda which included 18 expat families: 4 Sudanese, 3 Egyptian, 5 Palestinian, 3 Syrian, 2 Chadian, and 1 Somalian. On August 31, 2016, the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Ministry of Interior confirmed similar numbers. The GNA recognized its lack of authority and control in the eastern region and called on the ICRC to evacuate the families. The United Nations Special Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has made no public statement or position on Ganfouda.
On July 14, 2016, General Khalifa Haftar’s military dropped leaflets from helicopters on residential neighborhoods. The leaflets called for all the families to leave the area within 48 hours. The families were instructed to leave via the
Benghazi-Tripoli roadway and were told they would be accomp
anied by the Libyan Red Crescent. The Red Crescent claimed it had no prior aware
ness of this arrangement to escort families, therefore, no guarantee was given to the families for safe passage.
Ganfouda’s residents reported that foreign warplanes, including French military aircrafts, have been attacking the suburb since July 2016. While it is unclear how many civilians have been killed, it is estimated that there have been over 30 deaths in Ganfouda. On August 6, air strikes resulted in the deaths of two, and on August 12, four more deaths were reported, which included children. In addition, on August 27, sixteen missiles by foreign planes were reported to have attacked residential areas killing more than 11 civilians, including 3 children and 2 women. No official counts have been reported as human rights groups cannot access the area.
The suburb has been destroyed by Haftar’s air strikes with the support of foreign militaries. Houses, schools, clinics, mosques and prisons have been destroyed. In a news interview with a civilian in Ganfouda, a mother reported that the families are suffering from hunger, thirst and sickness.
(Credit Alnabaa news)
In August 2016, Dr. Wolfram Lacher, Libya researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, tweeted a press conference held by Haftar’s Tribal Relations Advisor and one of his senior militant’s which aired on the Tobruk government’s official TV channel that said all persons above the age of 14 will be killed and children and women will be tried.
More recently, on September 24, 2016, SrayaMedia reported that a UAE drone attacked residential areas in Ganfouda. According to Alnabaa news, local sources reported that a girl was injured by missile fragments.
It is unclear why this humanitarian crisis and human rights tragedy, which some claim is a crime against humanity, has went unnoticed by the international community. Local authorities, including the GNA and UNSMIL, have most certainly looked the other way as children, women, and civilians have been mercilessly killed.