24-31 October: Mystery airstrikes kill at least 12 civilians in Derna

Oct 31, 2017 | Libyan actors

On 30 October, airstrikes of unknown origin hit the Dahr al-Hamar and al-Fatieh districts of Derna, located to the south of the city. The strikes killed at least 12 children and women, injured three adults and four children in addition. Reports indicate that the airstrikes hit a family home. No one has claimed responsibility for the devastating attack, and the number of dead and injured may, in fact, be much higher.

Derna has been under a tight siege by Libyan National Army (LNA) units for several months, who claim their goal is to defeat the Derna Mujahadeen Shura Council (DMSC), the jihadist coalition that governs the city. The LNA has denied responsibility for the strikes and declared that it was a ‘terrorist’ attack. The LNA has previously conducted airstrikes on positions in and around Derna, and has the capability to do so at present.

Egypt too has previously conducted airstrikes against targets in Derna, although an Egyptian military official has denied Egyptian involvement in this incident. Nevertheless, some local sources say that Hisham al-Shmawy, an Egyptian al-Qaeda leader based in Derna, was the target of the raid.

Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Serraj condemned the attack on Derna and renewed requests for the siege on Derna to be lifted. The GNA PM called for the UN Security Council to investigate the situation as a possible war crime. The head of the High Council of State (HCS), Abdurrahman al-Swehli, also condemned the attack as well as the LNA and it’s aligned forced.

At a military press conference on 25 October, Ahmed al-Mismari, the spokesperson for Khalifa Haftar’s LNA, said that the LNA had set an internal six-month deadline to conclude the ongoing UN dialogue talks and resolve the current political crisis or else the LNA would move on Tripoli. He claimed that the people in Tripoli would welcome Haftar and his forces and that the LNA would not allow the chaos in the capital to continue. He emphasized that only the LNA, and not politicians could create a stable state in Libya.

Clashes involving small arms reportedly broke out in the center of Zawiyya and near the oil refinery on the evening of 30 October, with further fighting taking place near al-Basatein Hospital later in the night. The fighting reportedly resulted in three people being injured. Details about the subject of the fight and what parties were involved remain unclear.