Rival militias loyal to Libya's two opposing governments clashed near the center of the capital, Tripoli, into Saturday afternoon, causing numerous casualties, according to Libyan media.
Supporters of eastern-based Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha have taken control of parts of Tripoli, while forces loyal to outgoing Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah are still holding on to large chunks of the city.
Clouds of smoke floated over the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Saturday afternoon as militias loyal to the country's two rival governments exchanged bouts of gunfire in the center of the city.
Libya's Red Crescent Society is calling for a humanitarian corridor to be opened to the center of the capital to evacuate civilians that have been trapped between rival fighters. Libyan media is reporting injuries, while asking citizens to donate blood.
Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV reported that incoming Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha, who was named earlier this year by the country's eastern-based parliament, asked outgoing Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah to "leave the capital," while Dbeibah responded that he was "too busy dealing with the country's business." VOA could not independently confirm the quote.
Libya analyst Mohammed Asmar told Arab media that Dbeibah's supporters were trying to prevent Bashagha's forces from occupying the capital and Bashagha was trying to force Dbeibah's militia forces to withdraw from the city.
He said that fighting is taking place in a small, heavily populated area of approximately 3 square kilometers near the center of the capital and that rival militias have turned against each other.
Libya security analyst Aya Burweila told VOA that "the dismal political and security situation is the logical conclusion of 10 years of predatorial foreign and domestic policies in Libya that saw public funds being funneled to foreign-backed Islamist groups by successive...unelected governments in the country."
"Since 2012," she said, "the capital has been occupied by a militia cartel that has refused to disarm...and has terrorized citizens, engaged in human trafficking and sabotaged state institutions..."
Arab media showed video of a convoy of militia fighters loyal to Prime Minister Bashagha from the coastal city of Misrata heading to Tripoli to join the fighting. The exact situation inside the capital remains unclear, with reports of at least one militia changing sides.
Mohamed al Menfi, who heads Libya's presidential council, reportedly returned from a visit to neighboring Tunisia as the fighting spread.