Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), has ordered his forces to begin an offensive against Tripoli to "liberate it from terrorists", referring to the Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj and formed with the support of the UN and the EU. Haftar called on citizens of Tripoli to lay down their arms and raise the white flag.
The head of the Libyan National Army expects to take control over the whole city within 48 hours, a source in the LNA told Sputnik.
The LNA has reportedly seized control over the cities of Surman and Garyan, located west and south of Tripoli respectively, Sky News Arabia reported. Haftar specifically instructed his soldiers not to shoot foreigners and ordinary citizens in his address to the army.
"Do not shoot at civilians, at those who are at home, who wave the white flag. Do not touch foreigners, these are our guests, we must ensure their protection and security", he said.
The Government of National Accord (GNA) recently announced mobilisation, military preparedness, and the maximum level of emergency amid plans of the Libyan National Army to move further into GNA-controlled territories in the west.
According to Reuters, armed groups from the western Libyan city of Misrata have started moving towards Tripoli to reinforce its defences in the face of the upcoming offensive by the LNA.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is currently staying in Tripoli after going there to discuss a possible resolution to the country's political crisis that would end the confrontation between the eastern and western parts of Libya. Guterres called on all parties to the conflict to stop the escalation, noting that there is no military solution to the country's crisis.
Libya has been embroiled in a severe political crisis since National Transitional Council forces, supported by NATO, murdered the country's former head, Muammar Gaddafi. The country was eventually divided between the parliament, which was elected in 2014 and is based in the city of Tobruk as well as supported by the LNA, and the GNA, which was formed at the UN's initiative and controls the western part of the country, including its capital, Tripoli.
The UN announced that it would hold a conference in Ghadames on 14-16 April in a bid to set a date for organising country-wide elections that would put an end to the diarchy and political turmoil in Libya.