Clashes have continued across Benghazi despite a twelve-hour humanitarian ceasefire brokered by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
“A ceasefire beginning at 7 am was like an invitation for Ansar to start attacking at that time”, one resident in Benghazi’s Bel Awn district told the Libya Herald. She explained that in her area inhabitants had witnessed some of the most intense clashes they had seen in recent days.
UNSMIL said the ceasefire was announced by its head Bernardino Leon and had been agreed to by the “different parties to the conflict in Benghazi”. The “unconditional humanitarian truce” was scheduled to begin at 7 am local time for a period of 12 hours. Residents reported fighting in Benghazi from 7 am onwards.
The truce was described by the UN as being critical in “giving the people of Benghazi a much-needed reprieve from violence”. Had it held it would have given the Libyan Red Crescent time to evacuate civilians and retrieve bodies.
A spokesman for the Libyan National Army (LNA) Mohamed Hejazi told this newspaper that pro-government forces had been unable to keep the truce in the face of aggression from Ansar Al-Sharia and its allies. “We acted in defence,” he said.
Hejazi said that in Bel Awn six members of Ansar Al-Sharia had been killed in clashes with government forces. He said fighting had also taken place in Hawari, Sabri and around Benghazi University.
Hejazi explained that the LNA had agreed to the ceasefire on humanitarian grounds and had coordinated with the Libyan Red Crescent and the UN. The army did not enter into direct negotiations with Ansar Al-Sharia. he said. “They are criminals and we will not negotiate with them,” he added.
The LNA confirmed its participation in the ceasefire in a statement released by the Chief of Staff’s office. The statement said the truce had been managed by the UN with the support of British Special Envoy to Libya Jonathan Powell.
Spokesman for UNSMIL Samir Ghattas explained that the truce had been extended to all areas in Benghazi affected by recent fighting. He said the UN had used “channels direct or indirect involving the Shoura Council, Chief of General Staff’s office and the Red Crescent” but explained that the UN “does not deal with Ansar Al-Sharia”.
Beyond its obvious refusal of the truce, Benghazi Revolutionaries Shoura Council (BRSC), of which Ansar is a part, has been ambiguous in its response to the UN overtures. A spokesman for the Islamist coalition told Bowabat Al-Wassat that an official response was still being coordinated after fighting had resumed.
Article by Maha Suliman, Libya Herald.
This article was originally published here.