Libya is bracing for a second day of violence after militias linked to rogue general Khalifa Haftar clashed with Islamist brigades in sporadic skirmishes throughout the night of 13 July in the nation’s capital.

The fighting is the worst Tripoli has seen since the 2011 uprising and comes days after Haftar threatened to start military operations in the city.

The violence started on the morning of 13 July as Islamist brigades from the port city of Misrata launched a dawn raid on Tripoli International airport using heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns mounted on four-wheel-drive vehicles.

The brigades are trying to wrestle control of the airport from a group of militias from Zintan, a small but powerful town in Libya’s western mountains, which announced its allegiance to Haftar in May.

Haftar has been waging a bloody war with Islamists in the east of the country for the past two months without the authorisation of the central government, and commands the loyalty of units from Libya’s army and air force, as well as groups of casual militiamen.

Islamist-led brigades from Misrata arrived in Tripoli on 9 July to take on the militias from Zintan, but delayed their attack for tactical reasons, according to one militiaman from Misrata who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the media.

“Initially the plan was to attack immediately, but the order from Salah Badi didn’t come until early [in the morning of 13 July],” he said.

Salah Badi is a Misratan member of Libya’s General National Congress (GNC), a transitional parliament that is due to hand over power in August. He is linked to the Islamist Libya Shield militias and has been known to go into battle with Libya Shield units on occasions.

Videos of Salah Badi dressed in a bandana and sunglasses, running around the periphery of Tripoli International airport amid gunfire emerged on social media on the afternoon of 13 July.

Exchanges of fire continued throughout the day and by late afternoon, both sides were entrenched in their positions, awaiting reinforcements from their hometowns and allies, as smoke rose over the southwestern region of Libya’s capital.

Speaking on the morning of 14 July, Abubaker Alhuta, a member of the Libya Shield brigade, told MEED that his militia was ready for peace if the Zintan militias agreed to hand over the airport, and said they were ready to resume fighting if they refused.

“We are still trying to reach the Zintanis to try and draw up some form of agreement,” he said, speaking from the militia’s base in Tripoli’s Salah Edeen area. “More reinforcements arrived for the Libya Shield last night, just in case.”

Seven people were killed and 36 wounded on 13 July, according to Libya’s Health Ministry.

The cancellation of all flights to Tripoli International prevented Libya’s foreign minister, Mohamed Abdelaziz, from travelling to a two-day ministerial conference in Tunisia, which had been called by neighbouring countries to discuss Libya’s deteriorating security situation. The airport in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, is also closed due to damage from fighting.

In response to the new escalation in violence, the UN mission in Libya called for an end to hostilities in the capital.

“Libyan authorities, political forces and armed groups are called upon to put an end to the plight of the civilians,” the mission said in a statement.

The UN also said it had temporarily removed some of its international staff from the country after the fighting broke out.

Hugh Robertson, Britain’s Minister for the Middle East, issued a statement calling the violence “concerning”.

“These actions are putting the lives of people in the area in grave danger,” he said. “We urge all sides to cease violence immediately and to engage in meaningful dialogue.”

Libya has seen a steady decline in security over the past 12 months as armed groups vie for power across the country.

Additional reporting by Hassan Morajea in Tripoli

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