Libya: the first case of coronavirus and escalation of the conflict

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On Wednesday, intense bombardment shocked the Libyan capital when new battles began around Tripoli just a few hours after Libya announced its first case of coronavirus infection and despite United Nations calls for a ceasefire around the world during the epidemic.

 Residents of the Libyan capital, the seat of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), stated that the shelling was the toughest in a few weeks, and that windows shook even in the city center, a few kilometers from the front line in the southern suburbs.

 “We are finished in this country.  There is a war going on, and we hear battles all day, fearing that a rocket will fall next to us.  Now there is a coronavirus.  If it spreads in Libya, I think we can only pray, ”says Issa, a 30-year-old shopkeeper in Tripoli.

 The Libyan National Army (LNA), the rebel commander Khalifa Haftar, has been trying to capture Tripoli for almost a year with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.  The GNA is supported by Turkey and the Allied Syrian opposition.

 Artillery shelling by the LNA last week sparked condemnation of the UN after four girls died as a result.  On Tuesday, shells went to jail in an area held by the GNA, which also angered the UN.

On Wednesday, GNA forces attacked on several fronts against the LNA, including the Al-Vatiya airbase, 125 km west of Tripoli, which is closest to the capital in the hands of the LNA.

 “In response to the toughest bombing that Tripoli observed, we launched a series of counterattacks against Haftar,” said spokesman for the Libyan Foreign Ministry, Muhammad Göblavi.

 Heblavi referred to the “indiscriminate shelling” by the LNA after both sides agreed to a ceasefire to fight the coronavirus.

A military task force fighting for the GNA said its forces had captured LNA fighters, including some foreigners.

 Ahmad Mismari, an LNA spokesman, said they repelled the attack and that Turkish and Syrian fighters were fighting for the GNA.  According to him, the GNA did not observe the truce.  Meanwhile, on May 25, authorities in Tripoli confirmed the first coronavirus infection in the country.  According to the Minister of Health, the virus was detected in a 73-year-old man who returned to Libya from Saudi Arabia via Tunisia on March 5.  He is currently undergoing treatment at a medical facility in Tripoli.

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