Tripoli's main airport resumes flights after shelling

Tripoli's main airport resumes flights after shelling
FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2011, file, photo taken on a government-organized tour, a guard waves to fellow officers in the main lobby of the international airport in Tripoli, Libya. The only functioning airport in Libya's capital suspended its operations after coming under attack Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, airport authorities said, despite a tenuous truce that world powers have pushed warring parties to respect. Authorities at Mitiga airport said six Grad missiles crashed into the tarmac. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — The only functioning airport in Libya’s capital reopened on Wednesday after coming under attack, despite a tenuous truce that world powers have pushed warring parties to respect.

Authorities at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport said six Grad missiles crashed into the tarmac, prompting the airport to briefly suspend and divert flights to a northwestern city. But there were no reports of damage or casualties from the shells. Just over an hour later, flights resumed.

The sudden shelling in Mitiga put a cease-fire brokered earlier this month by Russia and Turkey on shaky ground, as diplomatic efforts to halt the long-running civil war intensify. Although both sides announced they would halt operations, intermittent clashes continue to rattle residents on the outskirts of Tripoli.

It was not immediately clear who launched the attack, but suspicion fell on Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s eastern-based forces, which have been laying siege to the capital for months in a bid to wrest authority from the U.N.-backed government.

Mitiga airport, the sole landing strip for the Tripoli-based administration as well as its major military base, is a strategic target for Libya’s eastern forces.

But the airport also gets caught in the cross-hairs as feuding western militias skirmish and try to carve out domains of control.

On Sunday, world powers with interests in the oil-rich country convened at a peace summit in Berlin, where they pledged to halt foreign interference and honor a widely violated arms embargo.

The peace push followed a surge in Hifter’s offensive on Tripoli, which has threatened to plunge Libya into chaos rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Still, basic questions about a concrete political process remain unresolved.

The foreign ministers of Libya’s neighboring countries are set to meet in Algeria on Thursday for discussions on “rapidly-changing developments” following the Berlin conference, according to Egypt’s foreign ministry.

Hifter’s forces, which control the east and much of the south, receive support from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia.

The Tripoli-based government is backed by Turkey, and to a lesser degree Qatar and Italy, in its struggle to repel Hifter’s self-styled army.