A rocket exploded into a storage tank full of fuel in a battle raging over control of the Tripoli airport. This has practically closed all international flights into and out of Libya. The blaze left firefighters struggling trying to extinguish the huge ball of flames.
Foreign governments are looking on powerless while anarchy is sweeping the oil producer in North Africa, just three years following the NATO bombardment that helped to topple Muammar Gaddafi the longtime dictator.
The international community is urging its nationals to exit Libya and is pulling its diplomats out following clashes that have raged on for two weeks amongst rival factions in both Tripoli and Benghazi a city in the east.
Austria, the Philippines and the Netherlands on Monday were preparing to have their diplomatic staff evacuated. The Turkish, United Nations and United States embassies were already shuttered after the worst outbreak of violence since the uprising in 2011.
Two rival groups of former rebels are fighting to take control of the international airport in Tripoli. The two are pounding each other’s locations with artillery fire, Grad rockets and cannons. This has made the area to the south of the capital nothing more than a battlefield.
The government in Libya in the three years since Gaddafi was ousted has not been able to control the former fighters who were anti-Gaddafi and well armed. They have refused to put down their weapons and are continuing to be the rule in the streets.
Libya has asked for help for the international community to make sure the country does not become a failed state. Its western partners are in fear that chaos will spill across its borders with militants and arms smugglers already profiting thanks to the turmoil.
In neighboring Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the president had warned repeatedly about militants being able to capitalize on the chaos in Libya to set up their bases along the border it shares with Egypt.
After the evacuation for the U.S., John Kerry the Secretary of State said the militia violence that has become freewheeling was a real risk for diplomats from the U.S. on the ground.
On Monday, black clouds of smoke took up much of the skies above Tripoli a day after the storage tank loaded with fuel was hit by a rocket near the airport.