On Wednesday, a spokesperson for one of Libya’s warring factions threatened to target civilian airliners flying over Tripoli airspace, prompting Mitiga, the only operating airport in the largest city of Libya. Libya, to stop and divert flights elsewhere. The airport reportedly reopened on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Libyan National Army forces under General Khalifa Haftar – who controls the eastern half of the war-torn country and some enclaves near Tripoli in the west of the country – said in a video message posted on Twitter that all planes operating in the airspace surrounding Tripoli, whether military or civilian, would be deemed hostile and could be shot down.
“Any military or civilian aircraft, regardless of affiliation, flying over the capital will be destroyed,” the spokesperson said, saying the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) was using the airport for purposes military.
On Thursday, Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the GNA in Tripoli, announced the reopening of the airport. The airport confirmed it was operating on Facebook again, but there were no immediate reports in Arab media about departing or arriving flights.
The threat from Haftar’s forces comes weeks after a civilian plane was mistakenly shot down in Iran. This incident led to calls from European countries for better coordination and information sharing to protect civilian airlines crossing conflict zones.
Mitiga is a former air base used for civilian flights since the destruction of Tripoli’s main airport in 2014. Haftar fighters say it is used by the GNA to attack their troops in the south of the city.
Libya has been embroiled in a violent civil war since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The western half of the country is currently controlled by the UN-backed GNA, while the east is controlled by loyal Haftar forces. to the old parliament. Both sides have received support from various international actors, further complicating attempts to end the conflict.
In recent weeks, the world powers have redoubled their efforts to find a solution. A summit was held in Berlin on Tuesday, and Algeria was hosting another meeting on Thursday.
Khaled Wassef contributed to this report.