The cause of the violence in the seaside neighborhood was unclear, but videos circulated on social media showed families with children sheltering and fleeing as artillery fire flew across the night sky.

Military vehicles mounted with heavy weapons belonging to pro-PM Dbeibah Constitution Protection Force are pictured in Tripoli, Libya, May 17, 2022.
Military vehicles mounted with heavy weapons belonging to pro-PM Dbeibah Constitution Protection Force are pictured in Tripoli, Libya, May 17, 2022. (Reuters)

The United Nations mission to Libya expressed concern over clashes in Tripoli, after a night of heavy fire between fighters in the capital.

The latest fighting comes as Libya is once again divided between competing governments — one of which is based in Tripoli — despite more than a year of tentative steps towards unification.

The cause of the violence in the seaside neighborhood was unclear, but videos circulated on social media showed families with children sheltering and fleeing as artillery fire flew across the night sky. Some accused two of the city’s powerful militias of infighting.

In Saturday's statement, the mission said the clashes endangered civilians and called on Libyans “to do everything possible to preserve the country’s fragile stability at this sensitive time.”

Libya has for years been split between UN-backed government in the capital Tripoli and rival administration in the east. 

The Mediterranean nation has been in a state of upheaval since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

READ MORE: Veiled threats, foreign fighters, and the race for legitimacy in Libya

Elections

The country’s plan to transition to an elected government fell through after an interim administration based in Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, failed to hold elections last year.

Dbeibah has refused to step down since then, raising questions over his mandate. In response, the country’s East-based lawmakers have elected a rival prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, a powerful former interior minister who is now operating a separate administration out of the city of Sirte.

Dbeibah, in a televised phone call, urged a powerful commander who leads the 444 brigade — which serves his government — to do what is necessary to restore peace in Tripoli.

His rival, Bashagha, in a series of Tweets called on armed groups to surrender their weapons. Last month, Bashagha entered Tripoli and attempted to install his government there, but left within hours after fighting broke out that killed one person.

READ MORE: Five recent events shaping the Libyan conflict

Oil production

Meanwhile, a widening blockade on oil production, largely in the country's east, has cut off key state revenues in opposition to Dbeibah's remaining in power. 

On Friday, a video announcement by residents and workers of the Sidra oil port, a key export facility, warned that they would stop operations due to lack of basic services in surrounding towns.

READ MORE: Why is the US trying to manage Libyan oil revenues?

Source: AP