Libyan House of Representatives backs Haftar's military campaign as fighters surround Supreme Court
On the third anniversary of former dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi’s death, Libya’s beleaguered parliament has formally thrown its weight behind a renegade general’s campaign to oust militia groups in the country.
Gaddafi, who ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly 42 years, was killed by rebels during Libya’s heavily-contested uprising on 20 October 2014.
Three years on, some comments marking the anniversary reflect the chaos that many feel still pervades life in Libya:
يموت الطغاة ويتركون الفوضي التي خلقوها من وراءهم ...#يوم_مقتل_القذافي
— عبدالله (@HerrEsharif) October 20, 2014
Translation: Tyrants die and leave the chaos they created for those who come after… #DayOfGaddafi’sKilling
Others, meanwhile, say that Gaddafi’s legacy and the collective memory of Libyans remain far from simple:
— Asoo-sun-south (@asooabosalah) October 20, 2014
Translation: On this day, 20/10/2011, the leader Muammar Gaddafi was martyred. #AnniversaryOfGaddafi’sMartyrdom
House of Representatives welcomes Haftar’s campaign
In a statement late on Sunday, a spokesperson for the House of Representatives gave the house’s support for General Khalifa Haftar’s campaign, dubbed Operation Dignity, launched in May to wrest control back from militia groups active in Libya.
Farraj Hashem told reporters that “Operation Dignity is leading officers and soldiers of the Libyan Army.”
“Operation Dignity is an operation of the Libyan army.”
The statement represents a turning-point for Libya’s parliament, which has been struggling to gain legitimacy.
This is despite being the elected body to take over from the former parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), whose mandate elapsed months ago but which continues to convene meetings in the capital Tripoli.
Haftar, who was formerly an army general under Gaddafi before defecting decades ago and fleeing to the US, began his campaign by arresting several members of the then-mandated GNC, who dubbed the action a “coup.”
Sunday’s statement from the HoR representative is the first message that Haftar’s campaign has official backing from the parliament, although units from the Libyan army have been fighting alongside the general’s campaign since just after it began.
The statement of support came a day before the Supreme Court met to discuss an appeal regarding the constitutionality of the HoR's meetings and rulings, which are passed from the far-eastern city of Tobruk, where the house meets.
The court on Monday postponed its final ruling on the house's legitimacy - according to local news site Libya Herald, the decision was taken because the court was unable to rule on the case independently, since the building had been surrounded by militia fighters from Libya Dawn since Monday night.
Hospital shelled in Benghazi
The UN’s Special Representative in Libya, Bernadino Leon, described on Monday the first steps necessary to finding a political solution to the country’s ongoing crisis.
He told Libyan newspaper that stopping attacks on Libya’s public institutions, regaining control over government bodies and reformulating the country’s airports and similar facilities were priorities.
Moments after Leon’s comments were published, a shell slammed into a hospital in Benghazi, though it did not cause any casualties.
A hole in the wall of the al-Hiwara General Hospital in Benghazi (Photo credit: Twitter / @akhbarlibya24)
An official from the hospital, al-Hiwari General, told news site Akhbar Libya:
“Everybody heard the sound of the explosion at the transport department”, explaining that the shell caused material damage to the hospital.
Benghazi has been the subject of intense fighting over the past week, with shelling from the air as well as street fighting between members of the militia group Ansar al-Sharia and young men from various districts of the town.
There were reports on Monday that a refugee camp for people from Tawergha was hit by several shells, causing a fire to spread in the area.
The camp, in the Garyounis area of Libya’s second city of Benghazi, houses families who fled the eastern town of Benghazi when they were subjected to a campaign of ethnic cleansing during the 2011 uprising.
Commenters on the ground report that the Garyounis area is now being bombed by Libyan army fighter jets.
The army has requested that social media users refrain from posting information that gives details of its troop movements on the ground.