(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
A residential neighbourhood in Alfatayeh in Derna, a coastal city about 300 kilometers east of Benghazi, was hit by airstrikes fired by Khalifa Haftar’s military helicopters, reported a local Libyan news outlet on Monday.
Clashes have been ongoing in the area between Haftar’s forces and a military group known as the Shura Mujahideen of Derna, loyal to Derna’s Shura Council, using light, medium and heavy weapons near Omar Al-Mukhtar University in the Alfatayeh neighbourhood.
There have also been clashes between the two groups in the western end of Derna, the eastern coast and Baldhak Valley located south of Derna.
In August, Ali Al-Za’tari, Libya’s Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, condemned the airstrikes Haftar launched on residential areas in Derna at the time, which have led to a number of civilian casualties, including children. “The continuing airstrikes in urban areas populated by civilians must stop,” said Za’tari.
Haftar’s airstrikes on Derna in August killed a mother and her two children and wounded seven others.
Ahmed Maetig, the Vice Chairman of the Presidential Council, also spoke strongly against Haftar’s attacks saying, “there can be no justification for the bombing of innocent civilians in this way. We share with our people in Derna the pain caused by these irresponsible attacks.”
The UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, joined the GNA’s rejection of Haftar’s violence and condemned the airstrikes on civilians in Derna.
Numerous accounts of civilian targeted shootings have been reported and attributed to General Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity in Derna.
A spokesperson for Haftar’s forces, Ahmad Al-Masmari said Derna residents should “take responsibility for their actions,” for supporting the Shura Council’s fight against ISIS.
“We have warned residents in the city of Derna through statements from the operations room and the military headquarters not to cover up for al Qaeda or allow them to use residential districts to store weapons and ammunition,” Al-Masmari said.
To justify his attacks on civilians Haftar has claimed that the Derna Shura Council is linked to Al-Qaeda, a claim that the Shura Council has fully rejected. Haftar’s willingness to hold innocent civilians accountable for the actions of militia groups, regardless of what they may be fighting for, is a sign that Haftar’s presence in Libya will only spew more terror.