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Benghazi – Is the Terrorism Over?

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Empty houses… scattered rocks… closed roads… and missile smoking colors the Benghazi sky black…

IMADThis is how it seems in Sabri area, one of the most famous and largest areas of the city of Benghazi, after one full year of bombardment.

Since the fighting erupted between the Karama (dignity) Forces under the leadership of retired Major General Khalifa Haftar, the Beghazi Rebels Shoura Council made up of former rebel factions, and the Ansar Sharria (Sharia Supporters) formation, the Benghazi features have been damaged in an unprecedented manner, and thousands have fled the areas of fighting.

The center of the city, considered the most historic of sites in Benghazi, has been destroyed to a great extent; Amr Ebn Al Aas Street, Omar Almukhtar Street, Al Hour Street and their tributaries, in addition to the famous square, Tree Square.

“Bin Halloum” building is the façade of the city center in view of its historic heritage and strategic location. It is opposite the Tree Square, at the end of the commercial street Amr Ebn Al Aas. Today it is empty and destroyed, barely standing on its foundations.

There are also other neighborhoods that have been damaged, such as Al Laithi, Al Sabri, Al Hawari, Al Qawarsha, and Venice Street, which was among the most important commercial streets in the city.

Khaled, 39, says that he left everything in his home after the bombing became too much, and after many attempts to enter the area he found the house empty of its belongings with significant damage to it.

As Miri, 43, looks for a place other than the school to which he fled, and says “the place is small and we share a bathroom. It is also very hot with many mosquitos with the coming of the summer. It truly is a disaster.”

Over the past two years, Benghazi saw a series of violence assassinations that have not spared military personnel, journalists or even young activists. Groups loyal to Ansar Sharia in the city have been accused.

On 15 May of last year, Haftar declared his war on terrorism in Benghazi, under the name Karama, but the fighting was not restricted to Ansar Sharia. All the former rebel formations participated in the war against his forces claiming that “Haftar” seeks to reinstate military rule in the country.

A security expert who preferred to remain anonymous said, “It was a mistake to deal with everyone as terrorists. We could have attracted groups of moderate rebels to stand on our side before the start of Karama operation, but the attack on everyone, including the rebels, cost us a lot, and made the battle more difficult.”

The more serious matter in these events, according to some experts and military researchers, is the appearance of what is known as the Islamic State in Benghazi. Experts in extremist groups confirm that the number of IS fighters has significantly increased in this city, as these combat areas are an appropriate environment for them to recruit fighters from every area, according to the experts.

Some observers believe that the destruction to the city is the greatest in its history, even worse than what happened in the Second World War.

Hajj Matouk, who witnessed that war as a young boy, says that Benghazi did not see this fleeing during that war, in spite of the intensity and severity of the airstrikes at that time.

The city is living a bitter reality with the shortage in all basic services. The marine port, which is the lifeline, has not been in operation for months, in addition to the closure of the airport. The city suffers from electricity outages for long periods of time, a shortage of fuel and cooking gas, and widespread garbage in its neighborhoods.

The National Committee for Freedoms and Human Rights has raised the alarm and demanded that the international community moves immediately to stop the fighting inside the city, stressing that what is transpiring is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which calls for sparing civilians of the fighting.

At this time, the parties to the political conflict are organizing dialogue sessions under the supervision of the UN delegation to Libya, described as marathon sessions, seeking to form a national unity government. However, all these sessions did not refer to the events in Beghazi, which raises the question on the fate of the second city in Libya, after all the social destruction, even before the physical destruction.

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