Several civilians were also injured in the attack on Mitiga International Airport on Saturday, the country’s internationally-recognized government said.
The Libyan Interior Ministry said at least 80 rockets were fired in the attack, damaging two Airbus planes, setting fuel depots on fire, and destroying fire trucks. The country’s Transport Ministry said one of the targeted planes was about to take off on a flight to Spain to return the Libyan nationals stranded there amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Video shared by an airport worker showed black smoke billowing over the apron. Images shared on social media showed shrapnel damage sprayed across the nose of a passenger plane.
Mitiga is the last functioning airport in the Libyan capital, although civilian flights stopped in March because of repeated shelling even before the country imposed a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.
The Saturday attack came amid intensified fighting between the Libyan government and the rebels, who are under the command of a renegade general named Khalifa Haftar.
It also came hours after the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) condemned the indiscriminate rebel attacks on civilians in Tripoli, saying the attacks “may amount to war crimes.”
Rebels ‘down Turkish drone’
Meanwhile, the rebels claimed on Sunday that they had shot down an unmanned Turkish aircraft near Tripoli.
Rebel spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismari said Haftar’s loyalists had shot down the Turkish aircraft — identified as a TB-2 drone — as it was flying toward rebel positions in the Ayn Zara area near the capital.
An information division of the rebel army claimed the drone was the third Turkish aircraft to have been downed in the last 24 hours.
Turkey is a prominent supporter of Libya’s internationally-recognized government. It has formerly dispatched troops to the country to shore up the Libyan army.
Late on Thursday, Turkey and Italy said the area around their embassies in Tripoli had been shelled, leading the European Union (EU) to condemn the incident, which it said was “attributal to Haftar’s forces.”
The rebels launched an offensive to seize the capital in April 2019. But they have not been able to advance past the city’s outskirts.
Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Jordan.
Libya plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster, and later killing, of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.