Serious clashes erupted in the southern districts of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, when the UN-recognized government launched a counterattack against fighters based on the deposition of General Khalifa Haftar.
Inhabitants of the city said they were in several districts of Tripoli on Saturday after several days of stalemate hear sustained rocket and artillery fire.
The Libyan National Army of Haftar, allied with a rival government in the east of the country, launched an offensive to seize Tripoli more than two weeks ago, but was stopped in the south of the city by forces operating with the government of the National Agreement (GNA).
On Saturday, the firing was louder and more frequent than in previous days, and residents heard it in central districts that were more than 1
Both sides claimed progress in the south of Tripoli, but no further details were immediately available.
Mustafa al-Mejii, a spokesman for the GNA military operation, said his troops had "launched a new attack phase."
"Orders were issued this morning to move forward and gain ground," he told AFP.
Colonel Mohamad Gnounou, another spokesman, said Tripoli allies carried out seven airstrikes on the Haftar LNA military positions. They included areas south of the city of Gharyan, 100 km southwest of the capital, and an air force base in Al-Watiya, 50 km to the southwest.
The LNA said its fighters had "taken over several new positions at the front in Tripoli". In a post on Facebook, the LNA said, "Our forces are moving forward as the GNA militias retreat on all fronts."
"We want civilian rule"
The fight in Tripoli's peripheral areas has killed at least 220 people and more injured According to the World Health Organization, there were more than 1,000 while the International Organization for Migration said that more than 25,000 people were displaced had been.
The offensive, which aimed at Haftar, aimed to rid the western region of Libya of "remaining terrorist groups" of fears of a full-blown civil war in the oil-rich country since the fall of the long-standing ruler Muammar Gaddafi 2011 in chaos.
Libya has been divided for years The Tripoli-based GNA in the west and a rival government in the east allied with Haftar.
Mahmoud Abdel Wahed of Al Jazeera, who reported from Tripoli, said while the GNA forces claim Haftar's fighters are on the decline, the battle would not be easy "because the forces of Haftar are ruled by regional powers Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ".
A phone call between President Donald Trump and Haftar on Monday, in which the US leader praised the Commander's "significant role in countering terrorism, would probably have further encouraged the LNA," Abdelwahed said.
The US and Russia on Thursday refused support for a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Libya. Moscow said it had objected to the British resolution that held Haftar responsible for the recent flare-up of violence, and the US did not give a reason for its decision.
Meanwhile, about 2,000 Tripoli residents protested the city's central martyrs' square on Friday to condemn Haftar's push against the city and the world powers that support it, including France and Russia and now the US.
"The forces that support terrorism in Libya are France, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," said demonstrator Abdelrizaq Musherib.
"We condemn the criminal acts against the Libyan people and the US Support for the rebel Haftar We also condemn the United Nations mission because they are unable to handle the situation in Libya", he added.
Nour Mohamed said the US demands that Haftar take over Libya. "We, the Libyan people, are against Trump and against Haftar, we want civil rule and freedom."
The French embassy in Libya tweeted in Arabic on Friday that Paris was "against the attack" on Tripoli. The foreign ministers of France and Italy also said they were trying to establish a common strategy for Libya.