Egypt's Sisi meets Libyan commander Haftar in Cairo

Lamar Ellis
April 15, 2019

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday met in Cairo with Khalifa Haftar, the commander of eastern-based Libyan forces, who is under worldwide pressure to halt an advance on the capital Tripoli.

The presidency released photos showing Haftar, dressed in a blue suit, sitting with Sisi and his head of intelligence Abbas Kamel.

His move is the latest in a cycle of conflict and anarchy since the 2011 toppling of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Egypt never publicly acknowledged it was offering material aid to Gen Haftar's LNA, although its jet-fighters have in the past occasionally bombed positions and facilities belonging to Islamic militants in eastern Libya. By moving forces west, his eastern home base is exposed and it may be hard for Haftar to retreat without losing standing among friends and foes alike.

His campaign has disrupted efforts by the United Nations to bring rival eastern and western administrations to the negotiating table to plan an election and end the turmoil. Islamist militants have since controlled large parts of the vast country, including the capital Tripoli.

During the past week, Eastern-based Libyan forces led by Haftar have been advancing in a push to seize the capital, Tripoli, but troops loyal to Prime Minister Fayez Al-Serraj's internationally recognized government have so far kept them at bay.

Fighting near Tripoli has killed 121 people and wounded 561, the World Health Organization said on Sunday.

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Medical personnel have been targeted in the clashes, with three medical workers killed and eight ambulances damaged since fighting began, according to the UN.

WHO's Libya Twitter account posted an update of "casualties" and said it was "sending medical supplies, health staff support for first- and second-line responders".

The WHO said in a tweet that 561 others had been wounded since commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive earlier this month to take Tripoli, which is now controlled by a UN-backed government.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said more than 13,500 people have been displaced, and that "significant numbers of civilians" remain stuck in areas where the fighting has escalated.

"Our position will not change", United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame tweeted. Both sides have carried out airstrikes on the town, and a spokesman for the Libya National Army said it has stepped up strikes on its rivals in the past two days.

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