Russia’s deepening involvement in Libya’s ongoing civil war, supporting Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) that is waging an offensive against the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj, have been exposed in recent reports.
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Many failed to realize that Haftar amassed a large base of support among former members of the Libyan army who had fought against Gadafi in 2011 and who felt threatened as the Islamists began to “purify” the state of elements of the “old regime.” Haftar portrayed himself as Libya’s saviour (“Libya’s Sisi”) from Islamist organizations spreading chaos.
As Italy pressures Tripoli to address the latter’s interests, France is coveting Haftar. The ambitions of both European countries have effectively undermined UN Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame’s action plan for the country. The plan was designed to amend the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) as well as hold a national conference to bring together all of Libya’s key stakeholders. The next steps were supposed to include a constitutional draft and referendum, paving the way for parliamentary and presidential elections.
As the country spiralled into another civil war, access to health care became severely limited. A report by the World Health Organization (WHO), published in May 2015, stated that patients could not reach hospitals due to the fighting. Medical workers also had a difficult time retrieving casualties. However, WHO is concerned that serious viruses such as HIV will spread rapidly due to a lack of sanitation and public awareness.
Other inhabitants are more ambivalent about the LNA. In a policy brief for the European University Institute, researcher Al-Zubayr Salem wrote that since besieging Derna, the LNA has compounded the crisis by failing to make a distinction between the DMSC and civilians. Worse still, civilians who support the LNA said that Haftar’s forces have shown little regard for human life.