(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
General Khalifa Haftar’s armed forces, known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), said that they were able to take over neighbourhoods that were under the control of their opposition on Thursday.
Medical officials say that 13 LNA soldiers died in Thursday’s battles.
Two years ago, Haftar launched a military campaign called Operation Dignity, which was intended to eliminate his opposition in a bid to win control over Benghazi.
Haftar’s forces say they were able to force their opposition out of Guwarsha, Benghazi’s southwestern neighbourhood, while continuing to fight in Ganfouda.
“The forces of LNA have liberated Guwarsha and our forces found 15 bodies belonging to terrorist groups,” said Ahmed Al-Mismari, a spokesman for the LNA.
The LNA has fired airstrikes on Ganfouda, a civilian neighbourhood, as a form of punishment on the families who oppose Haftar.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement earlier this month describing the dire conditions that civilians in Ganfouda are living in.
A resident of Ganfouda told HRW how an elderly woman was able to escape Ganfouda, “the Army [LNA] told residents that we could leave, so an old woman, 80 years, left her home. She called us once she reached Misrata and told us that she was arrested briefly by the army and was beaten on her back. She told us to beware and not to leave.”
Haftar’s forces have put conditions on who they will allow to be evacuated and who they want to keep under siege. The LNA “said it will not allow any evacuation of males between ages 15 and 65” to leave Ganfouda.
Haftar’s forces “should let any civilian who wants to leave the battle zone go, whatever their age or gender,” said Hanan Salah, the HRW’s senior researcher on Libya.
“The presence of fighters nearby doesn’t give the LNA license to trap civilians in a battle zone facing near-starvation. The LNA is trying to force mothers to leave behind their 15-year-old sons in order to survive,” said Salah.
“Time is running out for civilians in Ganfouda, who are being left to die trapped by the fighting. While bombs and shells continue to rain down on them, civilians are struggling to survive on rotten food and dirty water. And the sick and wounded must make do with dwindling supplies of expired medicines,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.
The Amnesty director is urging “all parties (to) take feasible precautions to protect the lives of civilians caught up in the fighting in Ganfouda and other parts of Libya in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.”
“Indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks are prohibited by international law and every effort must be made to distinguish between military targets and civilians or civilian homes and buildings,” he added.