Eastern Libyan forces commander Khalifa Haftar urged his troops trying to take Tripoli to battle harder despite U.N. calls for a weeklong cease-fire to coincide with the start of the fasting month of Ramadan Monday.
The battle for the Libyan capital, which erupted in early April, has threatened to ignite a civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed former President Moammar Gadhafi. The fighting has killed at least 432 people so far, including combatants and civilians, according to the U.N. health agency.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that along with the 432 killed, 2,069 people have been wounded. The fighting has also displaced more than 50,000 people, WHO said. The U.N. has repeatedly called for an end to the fighting.
On Sunday, the U.N. mission said a "one-week humanitarian truce" would begin at 4 a.m. Monday and called on all parties to cease military operations, including reconnaissance and mobilization.
The truce would come as many Muslims across the world begin observing the fasting month of Ramadan. But in released comments, Haftar said Ramadan had not been a reason to halt previous battles when he took the eastern cities of Benghazi and Derna.
"I salute you in these glorious days and urge you, with your strength and determination, to teach the enemy a greater and bigger lesson than the previous ones... till we uproot them from our beloved land," Haftar said.
Haftar's push on Tripoli in Libya's northwest is the latest turn in a cycle of factional violence and chaos dating back to the ouster of former President Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and NATO's aerial operations. Libya has remained dogged by turmoil since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of Gadhafi after more than four decades in power.
Since then, Libya's stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power, one in Tobruk and another in Tripoli, and a host of heavily armed militia groups. Haftar is not recognized by the international community, as the elected parliament of the country is centered in Tripoli.
However, Haftar, with financial and political support from certain countries, including some Gulf states, is an influential actor in the war-torn country. U.S. President Donald Trump, in a phone call with the military strongman last month, "recognized Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources," according to a statement from the White House. Closer to home, Haftar is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).