Libya: civilians under siege in Benghazi

Civilians have been trapped for months in a neighborhood of the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, amid fighting between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and Islamist militias that form the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC). Human Rights Watch called for all sides to the conflict to allow all civilians to leave the Ganfouda district, and allow for the safe passage of humanitarian aid into the neighborhood. Ganfouda is one of the few remaining holdouts of militant Islamist groups in Benghazi. The LNA, which has Ganfouda under siege, has said it will not allow any evacuation of males between ages 15 and 65, and has set a series of other conditions. The Islamist coalition controlling the neighborhood has also set conditions for evacuation of civilians.

"The Libyan National Army should let any civilian who wants to leave the battle zone go, whatever their age or gender," said Hanan Salah, senior Libya researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The presence of fighters nearby doesn't give the LNA license to trap civilians in a battle zone facing near-starvation."

The LNA, now under the command of a fomer general of the ousted Qaddafi government, Khalifa Hiftar, has gained control over territory in and around Benghazi since the outbreak of hostilities there in May 2014. It has carried out air-strikes and fired mortars on Ganfouda, killing or wounding an unknown number of civilians, and damaging infrastructure, Benghazi residents told Human Rights Watch.

The Islamist groups under the BRSC have shelled adjacent areas of Benghazi, killing and wounding civilians, and destroying property. They are also arbitrarily detaining about 100 supporters of the former Qaddafi government who were arrested during the 2011 revolution and held in Bouhdeima Military Prison in Benghazi until they were seized by militants in October 2014.

Forces loyal to ISIS are also opposing the LNA in Ganfouda. (HRW, Oct. 2)