Violent clashes rage south of Libya’s Tripoli

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(Tripoli) – Violent clashes raged south of Tripoli, marking an uptick in fighting as the UN envoy for Libya warned of a “long and bloody war”.

Heavy artillery fire could be heard from the city centre as the most intense fighting took place since May 6, when the holy Muslim month of Ramadan started.

More than six weeks since commander Khalifa Haftar launched an assault on the capital, fighters backing the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) made advances in the southern Salaheddin neighbourhood.

AFP journalists on the front lines estimated pro-GNA forces progressed by two or three kilometres (up to two miles) in the residential district.

Moustafa al-Mejii, a GNA spokesman, said fighter planes supported ground forces in their advance, carrying out strikes against tanks and heavy weapons in a barracks.

Haftar, who is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched a lightning assault on Tripoli with his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) on April 4.

But forces backing the GNA have put up a fierce resistance and the LNA has been held back in Tripoli’s southern suburbs.