World Bulletin/News Desk
Twenty aircraft were damaged by shelling at Libya's main airport in the worst fighting in the capital Tripoli in months as rival militia battled for control, officials said on Wednesday.
Tripoli International Airport became a battlefield at the weekend when a militia launched an attack to try to take control from a rival armed group, part of the turmoil in Libya three years after Muammar Gaddafi was toppled.
The fighting, the worst in Tripoli since November, has halted flights, stranding abroad many Libyans who were planning to return home for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and trapping expatriates. The heavy fighting in Tripoli and clashes in the eastern city of Benghazi prompted the United Nations to pull its staff out of the North African country.
Libyan carrier Afriqiyah had 13 planes damaged along with seven from rival Libyan Airlines, company officials told a televised news conference. Both airlines operate Airbus planes.
"The damage ranges from serious to superficial, and we need time to see how grave the damage is," said Abdulhakim Al-Fares, chairman of Afriqiyah Airlines. He gave no figures for the estimated cost of repairs or replacement aircraft or loss of business.
A Reuters reporter at the airport on Tuesday saw six damaged planes, one of them totally burned out. At least 31 planes were parked at the airport at the time of the shelling.
"We tried to remove the planes from the airport but the attacking force from the east did not stop shelling which made it impossible to relocate the aircraft," said government spokesman Ahmed Lamine.
He was referring to the city of Misrata from which some of the attackers come, pitting themselves against a rival militia from Zintan in the northwest which has been protecting the airport in the absence of state forces since helping to take Tripoli in August 2011 when Gaddafi's government fell.
Gunfire could be heard on Wednesday at the airport, where the Zintan militia was still in control of the main perimeter.
The Libyan government has no control over former rebel fighters who helped topple Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising but now defy state authority and often battle for political or economic power.
Ministry of Transport spokesman Tarek Arwa said Libyan carriers had started operating flights to Dubai and Istanbul to bring back citizens stranded abroad, operating out of Misrata and a smaller airport in Tripoli.
Smaller airports in Zuwara and Ghadames in the west would be upgraded to serve international destinations to offset the closure of Tripoli's main airport, he said, without giving a timeframe.
People in the villages of Kishkiyeh, Abu Hamam and Granij joined other tribesmen as they forced the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to withdraw from parts of the oil-rich region of Raqqa.
"There should be a serious approach to meet the reality of events on the ground in Libya," Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said.
On Friday, Obama - in some of his most direct criticism to date of the Bush-era practices - told a White House news conference: "We did some things that were contrary to our values."
Earlier Saturday, senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzook said that a Palestinian delegation to the talks will arrive in Cairo on Sunday.
The arrest order comes after Georgia's former president Mikheil Saakashvili failed to appear in court for questioning as a witness on Monday.
At least 10 people were killed in skirmishes this week between Azeri government forces and ethnic Armenians controlling Nagorno-Karabakh on Friday.
While thanking the Turkish government for their support, Iraqi Turkmen leader Ersad Salihi slammed the Turkish opposition, Central Asian states and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus for a lack of support.
Relations between Moscow and Brussels have deteriorated since the EU imposed sanctions on Russia over its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are fighting government forces.
The Egyptian initiative "allows lull to prevail, permits the entry of humanitarian aid and the start of negotiations", Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said.
Data collected suggested that the cyber attack originated from China and that the hackers had used highly sophisticated tools resembling those used to infiltrate US defence firms.
The Ebola outbreak, which began in Guinea and has spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, has killed more than 700, making it the deadliest since the virus was discovered almost 40 years ago.
Around 1,000 people took to the streets of Columbus Circle to protest Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip and call for an end to U.S. support to Israel.
Earlier on Friday, President Barack Obama urged Russian leader Vladimir Putin to stop supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine and to seek a diplomatic end to the crisis.
Morocco has decided to bring its citizens back home from Libya against the background of the worsening security situation in the country.
India shocked trade officials by rejecting the agreement at the 160-member World Trade Organization, one of the group's biggest initiatives since it was set up 19 years ago.
All 157, including 50 children, had refused to meet with the Indian consular officials this week and had been transferred to the island of Nauru where they will be processed and either resettled or returned to Sri Lanka.