Libyan PM unfazed by commander’s zero hour Tripoli push

CAIRO (AP) — The Prime Minister of Libya’s United Nations (UN) -supported government yesterday shrugged off threats by his rival, the commander of a self-styled army waging a months-long offensive to capture the country’s capital, Tripoli, that the “zero hour” of the battle has begun.

Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj called on Libyans to rally around him in the defence of the nation.

Sarraj’s call came a day after General Khalifa Hifter of the self-styled Libyan National Army declared a final, “decisive battle” to take Tripoli from Sarraj’s UN-supported government. “The zero hour has ticked,” Hifter said in a televised speech late Thursday. Since 2015, war-torn Libya has been divided between two governments, one in the east and the other in the west, based in Tripoli and supported by the UN, as well as Italy, Turkey and Qatar.

In April, Hifter’s east-based army, which is backed by France, Russia and key Arab countries, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, launched its push on the capital.

After nearly eight months of fighting, Khalifa’s forces have not taken Tripoli but have been held off on the city’s southern edges, instead laying siege on the Libyan capital.

The stalemated fighting has so far left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly combatants.

Libyan militia commander General Khalifa Hifter, (top C), listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during their meeting in Moscow, Russia. PHOTO: AP