Libya’s eastern-based government aligned with putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar resigned late Sunday amid rising protests in a number of cities over deteriorating living conditions and corruption, the Tobruk-based parliament announced on its website.
Abdullah al-Thani, the head of the government, which is not recognized internationally, submitted its resignation to the speaker of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, during an urgent meeting in which they discussed the protesters’ demands.
Abdallah Abaihig, a spokesperson for the parliament, confirmed the government’s resignation, saying lawmakers would review it in their next meeting. No date has been set for the session.
Hundreds of young Libyans flooded the streets of Benghazi and other eastern cities in the past couple of days in a spontaneous outburst of anger over the area’s crippling electricity shortages.
Protesters in eastern Libya set piles of tires ablaze and blocked traffic on several major roads. On Saturday, protesters attempted to storm a security headquarters in the eastern town of Marj.
Libyan Crimes Watch, a U.K.-based rights group, cited local media as saying that Haftar’s militias opened fire on demonstrators in Marj province, leaving one person dead and one injured.
Another local media report claimed that five people were injured in Benghazi, Bayda and Marj due to attacks by Haftar’s militias.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) also said at least one civilian was reportedly killed and three others were wounded.
It called for “a thorough and immediate” investigation into “the reported excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrations” and the speedy release of a number of detained protesters.
The recent demonstrations across Libya were “motivated by deep-seated frustrations about sustained poor living conditions, shortages of electricity and water, rampant corruption, misgovernance and a lack of service provision throughout the country,” the UNSMIL said.
The U.N. mission said the protests underscore “the urgent need to lift the oil blockade” and the return to a “full and inclusive” political process to end Libya’s yearslong conflict.
Powerful tribes in eastern Libya loyal to Haftar closed oil export terminals and choked off major pipelines at the start of the year to pressure the Tripoli-based government.
The U.S. Embassy in Libya said Haftar agreed to reopen oil fields and terminals no later than Saturday. By Sunday evening, it was not clear whether the blockade had been lifted.
The legitimate Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya was founded in 2015 under a U.N.-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to a military offensive by forces loyal to Haftar.
The United Nations recognizes the government headed by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj as the country’s legitimate authority as Tripoli has battled Haftar’s militias since April 2019 in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.
Fighting has died down in recent weeks amid intensive international efforts, including from the United States, to establish a lasting cease-fire and avert a battle over the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway for vital oil facilities.