The United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres, says he is leaving Libya with “heavy heart and deep concern”, immediately after holding a meeting with renegade Basic Khalifa Haftar who has ordered his troops to march to the capital.

“I nevertheless hope it is achievable to prevent a bloody confrontation in and about Tripoli,” Guterres wrote on Twitter on Friday, as he wrapped up his go to to the North African nation.

Guterres had travelled to Libya this week to assistance organise a national reconciliation conference planned for later this month and aimed at drawing a strategy for delayed elections.

But in a surprise move on Thursday, Haftar ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) to advance towards the capital, raising fears of a renewed civil war.

“The UN is committed to facilitating a political resolution and, what ever occurs, the UN is committed to supporting the Libyan persons,” Guterres stated.

According to  Al-Arabiya Television, Haftar told Guterres at the meeting in the eastern city of Benghazi that his operation towards Tripoli will continue till “terrorism” has been defeated.

The UN Safety Council scheduled an emergency closed-door meeting on Friday afternoon at the United Kingdom’s request to go over the unfolding developments.

Because the NATO-backed removal of lengthy-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been split in between rival governments in the west and east – the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the Residence of Representatives in Tobruk, respectively – and an array of militias fighting more than energy and oil fields.

The UN-backed GNA is headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. Haftar is the dominant figure for factions in eastern Libya that have rejected the GNA’s authority.

Haftar’s forces pushed back

Haftar’s LNA troops on Thursday captured the town of Gharyan, about 100km south of Tripoli, without having a fight, placing them closer than ever prior to to militias allied to the GNA.

The renegade common then ordered his forces to march on the capital, saying in an audio recording posted on the internet: “We are coming Tripoli, we are coming.”

He also urged his forces to enter the city peacefully and only raise their weapons “in the face of these who seek injustice and favor confrontation and fighting”.

Haftar’s spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari later stated that the army’s subsequent quit would be the town of al-Aziziya, viewed as the gate of Tripoli.

But LNA forces failed to take a checkpoint about 30km west of the capital. They had been pushed back by pro-GNA militiamen from the coastal town of Zawiya immediately after a “quick exchange of fire”, AFP news agency reported, citing an unnamed safety supply. 

Website traffic was flowing commonly previous the so-referred to as Gate 27, which lies astride the coastal road to Tunisia, on Friday morning, an AFP correspondent reported.

In yet another setback, forces allied to the GNA took 145 LNA fighters prisoner in Zawiya, west of Tripoli, a western commander, Mohamed Alhudairi, told Reuters news agency. An LNA supply confirmed 128 had been captured.

Sixty cars had also been seized, Alhudairi stated.

This came as militias in western Libya vowed to confront Haftar’s try to seize Tripoli.

Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from the capital, said that forces from Misrata are also believed to have joined Tripoli-allied troops to the south of the capital and are advancing southwest towards Gharyan, which Haftar’s forces took more than on Thursday. 

Also on Friday, a militia recognized as the Joint Tripoli Protection Force primarily based in the location and smaller sized towns about the Libyan capital announced it would also deploy to repel Haftar’s offensive.

“There are reports of confrontations in between Haftar’s forces and UN-backed government forces on the outskirts of Gharyan,” Abdelwahed stated.

Tripoli-allied forces took 145 troops allied to the eastern forces and confiscated dozens of cars in the town of Zawiya [Hani Amara/Reuters]

Quite a few governments and organisations have urged de-escalation, like these recognized to be Haftar’s crucial backers such as France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The two nations, along with the UK, Italy and the United States, said in a joint statement on Friday that “military posturing and threats of unilateral action only danger propelling Libya back toward chaos”.

Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, stated the bloc is “deeply concerned by the military make-up that is underway in Libya and the escalatory rhetoric which seriously dangers top to an uncontrollable confrontation”.

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, warned that the stability along the southern rim of the Mediterranean Sea was in danger, with Algeria also in turmoil following the uprising against its longtime ailing president.

Russia, which has thrown its help behind Haftar in the previous, distanced itself from the offensive.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, denied any help for Haftar and emphasised the require “to prevent actions that would lead to the resumption of bloodshed”.

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