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Passengers flee as bombs rain down on Tripoli's only functioning airport

Rockets hit several areas across Libyan capital, wounding one person and causing material damage
Rockets also targeted Abu Slim, Al-Hadaba al-Khadra, and Souk al-Joumaa neighbourhoods in Tripoli (Reuters)

As rockets rained down on Tripoli's only functioning airport on Friday, passengers and airport personnel hurriedly fled the scene, abandoning their suitcases and belongings during the frenzy.

In addition to targeting Tripoli's Mitiga International Airport, the attacks targeted other areas of the Libyan capital, wounding at least one person and causing material damage.

Forces allied with the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, blamed the attacks on rival forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a military commander who launched an offensive on the capital last April.

Rockets also targeted the Abu Slim, Al-Hadaba al-Khadra, and Souk al-Joumaa neighbourhoods in the city's southeastern suburbs, according to activists.

"The militias of war criminal Haftar targeted Mitiga airport, its perimeter and several residential areas of Tripoli with more than 60 Grad-type rockets," a pro-GNA force said in a statement on Facebook.

"A woman was wounded when her home was hit by a rocket," it added.

Mitiga International Airport authorities confirmed that rockets targeted the airport, causing flights to be suspended. The runway was hit and the airport was evacuated, witnesses said.

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The airport was also closed to air traffic the previous night due to "continuous bombing", airport authorities said.

"Worst day of attacks in Tripoli in quite a while," said Brian Castner, Amnesty International's senior crisis adviser on arms and military operations.

"According to reports we've received, dozens of 122m Grads [were fired] today, from the airport to Abu Salim."

Forces loyal to Haftar say the GNA has been using the airport for military purposes. 

Libya has been rocked by violence since a Nato-backed uprising in 2011 overthrew and killed Muammar Gaddafi. Since then, two rival factions emerged: the UN-recognised GNA based in Tripoli, and Haftar's eastern forces, self-named the Libyan National Army (LNA).

The two sides agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Turkey, which supports the GNA, and Russia, which supports the LNA, which went into effect on 12 January. Since then there have been repeated violations.

UN-sponsored political talks were supposed to have begun in Geneva this week, but the rival factions pulled out, citing different reasons.