United Nations says death toll from fighting over Libya's capital at 254

General view of a house damaged by an overnight shelling in Abu Salim district in Tripoli

General view of a house damaged by an overnight shelling in Abu Salim district in Tripoli Credit AHMED JADALLAH REUTERS

While the U.S. has primarily backed the United Nations recognized Government of National Accord which is based in Tripoli and led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, American diplomats and military officers have maintained contacts with Haftar whose Libyan National Army controls much of eastern and southern Libya.

"In the past week, WHO Libya specialized emergency medical teams in frontline hospitals handled 89 major and 63 surgeries".

At least two flights were re-routed from Mitiga airport to Misrata, more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) to the east, the airport's authorities said on their Facebook page.

In the first days of April, Khalifa Haftar, commander of forces loyal to Libya's eastern government, launched a campaign to capture Tripoli, where a rival UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) is headquartered.

Libya has been largely divided into two factions ever since the death of its dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

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Colonel Mohamad Gnounou, another spokesman, said Tripoli-allied forces carried out seven air raids against military positions held by Haftar's LNA.

The fighting pits the LNA, led by Khalifa Hifter, against rival militias affiliated with a weak UN-supported government in the capital.

The disclosure of the call and a USA statement that it "recognized Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources" has boosted the commander's supporters and enraged his opponents.

Two men stand at the scene of an overnight rocket attack, which no group claimed responsibility for so far, in the Libyan capital Tripoli on April 17, 2019.

Over the weekend the LNA dispatched units to the eastern oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider in case of any attack on them by forces aligned with the Tripoli-based government.

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Haftar enjoys the backing of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which view him as an anchor to restore stability and combat militants in Libya, while most Western powers have supported Serraj.

On Thursday the United States and Russian Federation blocked a UN Security Council effort to call for a ceasefire in Libya - this as air power has recently been used during increasingly intense fighting in Tripoli.

The US reluctance to support Security Council action is in contrast to Washington's earlier public opposition to Haftar's offensive, which began while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting Tripoli.

The shelling was louder and more frequent on Saturday than in previous days, residents said, and audible in central districts more than 10km away from the front line. The foreign ministers of France and Italy also said they are trying to forge a common strategy on Libya.

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