(Reuters) – Unidentified war planes flew over the Libyan capital Tripoli and explosions were heard early on Monday, residents said, in what could mark a sharp escalation of more than a month of street fighting between armed factions.
Several Libyan TV channels said planes targeted bases of militiamen from Misrata who have been battling brigades from the western Zintan region to gain control of Tripoli in the worst violence since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.
Tripoli residents said they heard several jets flying after midnight, followed by loud explosions. No more planes were heard but fighting between militias on the ground resumed in some parts of the city in the morning.
A Zintani source said fighters of his unit saw planes bombing a Misrata position, though Reuters reporters were not immediately able to access the area.
Fighting between brigades from Misrata and Zintan has raged through Tripoli for more than a month, forcing the United Nations, Western and Arab countries to evacuate their embassies and citizens.
But clashes had been limited to ground action with artillery and rockets. None of the militias are believed to own war planes, while the weak central government has only an outdated air force badly in need of repair.
Pro-Misrata news websites accused renegade General Khalifa Haftar who has used some aircraft from an air base under his control in Benghazi to attack militant Islamists in eastern Libya.