On Friday morning, Tunisian security forces allegedly fired tear gas and shots in the air as hundreds of Egyptians fleeing Libya attempted to forcefully pass the Ras Jadeer border crossing after protesting the length of time they’ve had to wait at the gates, reported the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.
However, a conflicting account published in Reuters said that Libyan border guards opened fire on the crowds, killing two Egyptians, citing the Tunisian state news agency TAP. However, the deaths have not been confirmed by Egyptian media outlets.
An EgyptAir flight departing from southern Tunisia’s Djerba airport brought more than 300 Egyptians escaping the violence in Libya back to Cairo on Friday, reported the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA). However, thousands more Egyptians were left behind. Egyptian families stranded at Ras Jadeer have been pleading for the Egyptian authorities to rescue them, but their sheer numbers are outnumbering evacuation efforts.
EgyptAir planes have been bringing Egyptian migrant workers back home in droves since earlier this week as combat between militia forces intensified in Tripoli. Friday’s flight brings the total number of passengers that have successfully returned to Egypt up to 1,170.
Alaa Ali, head of Cairo International Airport security, said more passport control staff has been deployed to facilitate entry procedures for those returning from Libya.
Tripoli is immersed in a brutal conflict between Islamist militias and rival groups, which has resulted in its airport closing to most commercial airliners.
Late on Thursday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry updated Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb on the worsening situation in Libya and its effect on Egyptians living there. Mehleb ordered further cooperation between Shoukry’s ministry, civil aviation authorities and security forces to help Egyptians who wish to leave Libya. He also thanked Tunisian authorities for easing the return of Egyptians through their borders.
Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Wednesday assuring that the government was following up on the status of Egyptians currently in Libya, and was coordinating its efforts with the “Tunisian and Libyan authorities.”
Armed assailants killed 15 Egyptians in Libya on Thursday as they waited to cross through Tunisia’s Ras Jadeer border, reported the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY). Two other Egyptians died at the crossing on Thursday, reportedly due to overcrowding. However, Tunisian media claimed the Egyptians were shot dead by Libyan security forces.
Egyptian officials had advised nationals wishing to leave Libya to head to the Tunisian borders where flights would be waiting to rescue them.
Also late on Thursday, the head of security in Marsa Matrouh said that vegetables were transported from Egypt to Libya through the Salloum border crossing of the first time in two weeks, MENA reported. The transport of goods and products was halted on July 18 when the crossing was closed for cargo and was only open to Egyptians fleeing the country or Libyans returning there.