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Updated Apr 30, 2020
This image grab taken from a video published by the War Information Division of military strongman Khalifa Haftar's self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) on April 28, 2020 shows Haftar giving a speech, saying he had "a popular mandate" to govern the country, declaring a key 2015 political deal over and vowing to press his assault to seize Tripoli. In a speech on his Libya al-Hadath TV channel, Haftar said his self-styled Libyan "army" was "proud to be mandated with the historic task" of leading Libya. He did not make clear whether an elected parliament in the country's east, a signatory to the deal, backed his move -- or what its future role would be. Haftar has so far drawn his legitimacy from the administration based in the country's east, and last April his forces launched an assault to seize the capital Tripoli, in the west, from the Government of National Accord. LNA War Information Division / AFP
Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, in an image from a video released on April 28, 2020, of him giving a speech, saying he had “a popular mandate” to govern Libya. (LNA War Information Division/AFP)

 

Hopes that the Libyan Civil War may end through a diplomatic solution were dashed on Monday, April 27, when Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA), declared a 2015 United Nations–brokered agreement to unite the country effectively over, vowing to continue his assault on Tripoli.

Just more than a year ago, the LNA began its assault on the UN-recognized government based in Tripoli, the Government of National Accord (GNA), with the goal of forcibly reunifying Libya under Haftar’s leadership.

 

Russia’s Role

Haftar's unilateral decision has been widely condemned by various international powers, even Russia, which has defended Haftar at the United Nations, and is accused by Libyan and United States officials of secretly providing mercenaries and weapons to Haftar’s forces. Moscow has denied the accusations.

 

Years of war have devastated a once-efficient health system.

Fighters of a military battalion loyal to Libyan General Khalifa Hafta patrol the streets in the eastern city of Benghazi during a state of emergency to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, on March 21, 2020.
Fighters of a military battalion loyal to Khalifa Haftar patrol the streets in the eastern city of Benghazi, where a curfew is in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 

Healthcare in Crisis

The escalation of the Libyan conflict is especially concerning given the additional threat of COVID-19, which could cause the collapse of the country’s already-precarious healthcare services. Years of war since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011 have devastated a once-efficient health system.

In March, the UN and other countries welcomed a positive response by both warring parties to a call for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to help prevent the spread of the virus. Within hours, however, heavy shelling had resumed in Tripoli.

 

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