Rival factions battle across capital Tripoli, leaving 32 people dead and damaging six hospitals, as UN-backed Dbeibah government condemns "war crimes" by rival administration led by Fathi Bashagha.

The clashes also damaged six hospitals, sparking fears that a political crisis could spiral into a major new armed conflict.
The clashes also damaged six hospitals, sparking fears that a political crisis could spiral into a major new armed conflict. (AFP)

Clashes between backers of Libya's rival sides have killed at least 32 people and injured 159 people in Tripoli, the health ministry said.

Small arms fire and explosions rocked several districts of the capital overnight and into Saturday when smoke could be seen rising from damaged buildings.

The clashes also damaged six hospitals, sparking fears that a political crisis could spiral into a major new armed conflict.

Cautious calm, however, appeared to have returned on Saturday night, the AFP news agency correspondent said.

UN-backed Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah in the capital Tripoli posted a video of himself surrounded by bodyguards and greeting fighters supporting him.

Ambulances were unable to reach areas affected by the clashes, the ministry had said earlier, condemning "war crimes".

The UN, US and Islamic bloc OIC all called for an immediate end to fighting. 

READ MORE: Deaths rise, explosions ring out in Libyan capital as rival groups clash

Fighting after talks fail

The Government of National Unity (GNU) of Dbeibah said fighting had broken out after negotiations to avoid bloodshed in the western city collapsed.

Dbeibah's government, formed as part of a United Nations-led peace process following a previous round of violence, is challenged by a rival administration led by former interior minister Fathi Bashagha.

Bashagha, who is backed by eastern-based warlord Khalifa Haftar, says the GNU's mandate has expired.

But he has so far been unable to take office in Tripoli, as Dbeibah has insisted on only handing power to an elected government.

Dbeibah's government accused Bashagha of "carrying out his threats" to seize Tripoli by force.

In July, clashes between rival groups in Tripoli left 16 people dead, including a child.

Saturday's was the deadliest violence to hit the Libyan capital since Haftar's ill-fated attempt to seize it by force in 2019 and 2020.

READ MORE: Clashes in Libya threaten civilians, stability — UN

Source: AFP