From Human Rights Watch.
Forces under Gen. Khalifa Hiftar have started a land and air operation to wrest the eastern city of Derna from an alliance of militant armed groups, Human Rights Watch said today.
All parties to the conflict are obligated to respect the laws of war and spare civilians and civilian infrastructure.
The Libyan National Army (LNA) under Hiftar’s command has enforced a siege on the city of 150,000 people since August 2016, to drive out the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC), an armed group with an Islamist ideology that has controlled Derna since the ouster of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in April 2016.
The group, headed by Attia al-Shaeri, recently renamed itself the Derna Protection Force. On May 3, LNA fighters opened a ground attack south of the city, two Derna residents told Human Rights Watch by phone.
“Derna residents, suffering under a military siege for nearly two years, are bracing for a possible drawn-out battle for their city,” said Hanan Salah, senior Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Senior commanders need to ensure fighters under their command take all feasible measures to spare civilians from harm.”