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Op-Ed: Gunfire in Tripoli and airspace closed again

The indefinite closure lasted only until around 10 a.m. local time. Both Tripoli and Misrata airspace were closed yesterday for six hours between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Officially the closure was for “technical reasons” but the closure appears to be linked to the expected arrival of PM-designate Faiez Serraj and members of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

As a result of the closure this morning, Libyan Airlines flights from Istanbul and Jeddah as well as a Libya Wings flight were redirected to Misrata airport, which remained open. A Libyan Airlines source confirmed that the morning closure was simply for safety reasons, as there was heavy gunfire near the airport. Militias opposing and supporting the GNA are making their presence known but so far there are no reports of casualty or damage. The groups may simply be making their presence known. A former Misratan militia member told the Libya Herald the gunfire was ‘’muscle flexing as each militia marks its territory and sends out loud signals to opposing militias, warning them off and saying we are still here.” A number of militias went on TV in Misrata who support the GNA. They said they had formed a Temporary Crisis Room designed to help the GNA to enter Tripoli. Some of the rumors have been put to rest as Serraj’s media advisor confirms that Serraj is still in Tunisia.

Armed brigades from the Tajoura area of Tripoli called for calm as tension rises in the city. On Sunday, the brigades urged the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), Martin Kobler, to respect the sovereignty of Libya and the “choices of the people.” In a statement they said:”We reject any call that undermines security in Tripoli. We call for calm and unity to avoid sliding into problems.” The Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade commanded by Haitem Al-Tajouri is one of the most powerful in Tripoli. Al-Tajouri is a resident of the Tajoura neighborhood.

The Libya Observer notes that the intention of the UN-brokered government to locate in Tripoli by force could result in a devastating war in the city of about 2.5 million people. Reports from Mistrata indicate that pro-GNA militia are ready to use force to ensure that the GNA comes to Tripoli by threatening war against anti-GNA brigades: “We are obliged to stand against the opposing sides with force.” There is absolutely no sign that the UN and its associated supporters are the least critical of their approach. Should the situation result in a violent confrontation in Tripoli, any semblance of legitimacy for the GNA will be gone and we could see a complete separation of eastern Libya from the rest of the country, leaving the GNA with no legislature unless HoR members move to Tripoli and leave Cyrenaica to be governed by a military council, as General Khalifa Haftar wants.

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