Libya's U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) said Friday that its forces killed 20 militia members loyal to putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar in Sirte.
The militia members were killed in an airstrike, Mustafa al-Mujie, the spokesman for the GNA-led Burkan al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) Operation, told Anadolu Agency (AA).
In response to the Haftar militias' repeated violations of the cease-fire and attacks on civilians in Tripoli, the GNA last week launched an operation on several fronts, including an attack on an airbase held by their rivals west of Tripoli.
Three warplanes, tanks, armored vehicles, cannons and artillery belonging to Haftar forces have so far been destroyed during the military operation launched by the GNA forces.
Due to the heavy losses, Haftar forces had to leave their posts in southern Tripoli.
Since the ouster of late ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys U.N. and international recognition.
International efforts to establish a cease-fire have been stymied by Haftar's side flouting the process.
Meanwhile, Libya confirmed its first death from the coronavirus on Thursday.
An 85-year old woman who tested positive died from COVID-19, the Libyan National Center for Disease Control said in a statement.
Eleven cases have been reported in the country so far.
The war-torn country recorded its first coronavirus case on March 24, and authorities later banned travel between cities to curb the virus' spread.
The U.N. has called for a suspension of hostilities in Libya to aid efforts to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
Two weeks ago, the warring sides publicly welcomed the idea and expressed their commitment to a humanitarian pause in the fighting so that authorities could focus on preventing the spread of the coronavirus. There are fears the global pandemic could devastate war-torn Libya, where the decadelong conflict has ravaged key infrastructure and created dire medical shortages. However, fighting broke out again soon afterward as Haftar forces intensified their offensive on Tripoli. Haftar has been trying to capture the capital for almost a year, backed by the UAE, Egypt and Russia.
The risk posed by the pandemic is particularly worrying in Libya, where security and the humanitarian situation have deteriorated further since Haftar launched his offensive against Tripoli almost a year ago, which has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced 150,000. The escalation in the fighting could spell disaster for Libya's already fragmented and badly stretched health system in handling the coronavirus.
After first appearing in Wuhan, China in December, the coronavirus has spread to at least 181 countries and regions.
Data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University shows worldwide infections have surpassed 1 million, with more than 52,900 deaths. Over 210,000 have so-far recovered.
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