At least 264 people were killed and 1,266 wounded, including civilians, in an offensive by commander Khalifa Haftar to seize Libya's capital Tripoli, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday. Underscoring the growing humanitarian concerns in the war-torn country, the U.N. agency earlier stated that more than 32,000 people have been displaced.
Amid ongoing clashes which have increased fears of a worsening conflict in Libya, the U.N. has raised an aid alarm while warning that hostilities will likely continue. "We are likely to see a continuation of hostilities for some time to come," Maria do Valle Ribeiro, the U.N.'s deputy envoy to Libya said at a press briefing in Tripoli while acknowledging aid partners need to be prepared for clashes to continue. "For that, we need to gear up and accelerate and increase our capacity to be able to respond."
Eastern Libyan forces said Monday they would intensify an assault on Tripoli, the capital in the west of the country that is held by the internationally recognized government. The Libyan National Army (LNA) force loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar allied to a parallel government in the east has launched an offensive but has been unable to breach the southern defenses of the city. Forces loyal to Tripoli drove back the LNA in recent days to the southern suburb of Ain Zara, the main scene of fighting, Reuters reporters visiting the area have said the LNA claims it had launched airstrikes on military sites in the capital. LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied there had been a retreat but said an advance by LNA forces had slowed because of the dense population in the areas where fighting was taking place. He told reporters the LNA was calling in reservists to open new fronts on Tripoli and said it would use artillery and infantry in the next days. He gave no other details.
Haftar's push on Tripoli in Libya's northwest is the latest turn in a cycle of factional violence and chaos dating back to the ouster of former President Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and NATO's aerial operations. Libya has remained dogged by turmoil since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of Gadhafi after more than four decades in power. Since then, Libya's stark political divisions have y
ielded two rival seats of power, one in Tobruk and another in Tripoli, and a host of heavily armed militia groups. Haftar is not recognized by the international community, as the elected parliament of the country is centered in Tripoli. However, Haftar, with financial and political support from certain countries, including some Gulf states, is an influential actor in the war-torn country.
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