Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Three weeks of fierce fighting between rival militias in Tripoli have come close to reducing Libya’s capital to an empty shell, as civilians continue to flee for their lives.
“Thousands of refugees have left their homes in Tripoli, which has turned into a ghost city,” a resident told Asharq Al-Awsat. “Businesses are closed and the very few that have not left yet are either in conflict zones, and thus cannot leave, or do not have the means to leave.”
An official estimate has put the number of displaced families at around 11,000, while more flee their homes as violence in and around the city continues to escalate.
The conflict, which erupted over control of the capital’s international airport on July 3, has left the city paralyzed and suffering from acute shortages of fuel, food and electricity.
The mass exodus of civilians has also coincided with an increase in prices of all commodities that is reducing many of the city’s families to penury.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to residents from the less affected parts of the city, who said they had no option but to try to live with the circumstances.
“There is no life whatsoever in the distressed neighborhoods,” a local journalist said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “As for the rest [of the city], life is very normal, save for the fuel [shortage] of course. People got used to bullets and bloodshed, everything has become normal for us.”
Despite the danger, ordinary people can be seen standing in lines in front of bakeries and gas stations across the capital.
“Welcome to the world’s capital for lines,” one local man said. “This is the first time in Libya’s history that we become familiar with bread lines, this is not to mention lines for fuel and treatment as hospitals are empty of their medical staff.”
As with other commodities in Tripoli, fuel prices have soared as people have been forced to purchase supplies on the black market due to the long lines in front of gas stations.
“It would be a valuable gift if someone gave you a jerrycan of fuel,” one of the residents said. “A 20-liter jerrycan is sold outside the station for 120 Libyan Dinars [94 US dollars].”
Other civilians have spoken of the psychological impact the fighting has had on their lives.
“A large number of rockets have landed in our area. You cannot imagine the magnitude of the psychological effect of rockets and the sounds of explosions,” a resident told Asharq Al-Awsat.
He said: “First you hear the sound of the rocket but you cannot know where it will land until you hear the explosion.”
“On the ground, battles are still raging in eastern and western Libya, with no side defeating the other,” he added.