TRIPOLI: Heavy clashes broke out in the southern districts of the Libyan capital Tripoli on Saturday, with shelling audible in the city centre, residents said, as the death toll from two weeks of fighting between the country’s rival governments rose to 220. The spike in violence happened after the White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump spoke by phone earlier in the week with Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, who started an offensive against Tripoli on April 3.
The disclosure of the call and a US statement that it “recognised Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources” has boosted the commander’s supporters and enraged his opponents. Western powers and the Gulf have been divided over a push by Haftar’s forces to seize Tripoli, undermining calls by the United Nations for a ceasefire. Despite the offensive, Haftar’s Libya National Army (LNA) force has not been able to breach the southern defences of forces allied to the internationally recognized administration based in the city. — Reuters