At least 35 people have been killed since a Libyan general launched a campaign to capture Tripoli. A United Nations attempt to secure a temporary cessation of hostilities came to no avail.
Intense fighting between pro-government troops and militias loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar continued Monday despite attempts by the United Nations to secure a temporary ceasefire.
Haftar's forces launched a military offensive to capture the Libyan capital of Tripoli last week, threatening to send the conflict-ridden country into further chaos.
On Monday, the UN said an airstrike by Haftar's forces hit Tripoli's only functional airport for civilian use. Flights were suspended until further notice.
Reports of deaths very, but as of Monday, as many as 50 people are believed to have died in clashes between government loyalists and pro-Haftar forces.
Haftar's offensive 'endangering civilians'
Ahmed Mismari, a spokesman for Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), described a new facet to the clashes, saying: "Air forces took part for the first time in the military operations. It conducted a very successful operation to secure the airport road (to the city center)."
Colonel Mohamed Gnounou, a spokesman for pro-government forces, said its counteroffensive against Haftar aimed at "purging all Libyan cities of aggressor and illegitimate forces."
Read more: Can the EU and partners stabilize Libya?
The EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, called on leaders to avoid further military escalation and urged a "return to the political process." She added that developments in Libya were "definitely not going in the right direction."
Peter Millet, the UK's former ambassador to Libya, told DW international involvement should refrain from escalating the situation, saying: "I don't think the international community can, could or should intervene militarily in Libya."
Country in chaos: Libya plunged into chaos in 2011 after dictator Moammar Gadhafi launched a brutal crackdown against anti-government protesters. NATO-backed rebels eventually defeated the regime and captured Gadhafi, who was killed in captivity. Since then, warring factions have attempted to claim power in the North African country.
Read more: Libya: The road from revolution to civil war
Why is Haftar fighting the government?
Under a UN-backed deal last year, the Tripoli-based government of Fayez al-Sarraj, Haftar and some warring militias agreed to a transition deal that included holding national elections by the end of 2019.
But Haftar became frustrated with the Tripoli government's inability to govern effectively. Last week, Haftar ordered his forces to seize control of the Libyan capital.
The UN-backed government accused Haftar of betraying the transition deal.
Former Gadhafi ally Khalifa Haftar, 75, held a senior post in the forces which overthrew the dictator in 2011
Who is Khalifa Haftar? Haftar is a former military officer who helped Gadhafi during a military-led coup in 1969. However, he later fell out of favor with the dictator. He enjoys widespread support in eastern Libya from several armed militias filled with battle-hardened fighters who made their names during the 2011 civil conflict.
Read more: Khalifa Haftar: Libya's military strongman
ls,tj/ng (AFP, Reuters)