The Libyan capital, Tripoli, which has been under attack by commander Khalifa Haftar's forces since last month, has seen its water supplies resume, after depriving over 2 million residents of water for two days, with the U.N. condemning it as a war crime.
U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Maria Ribeiro in a statement late Monday condemned the act, which "aims to deprive hundreds of thousands of already embattled Libyans of safe drinking water. Such attacks against civilian infrastructure that are essential for the survival of the civilian population may be considered war crimes," Ribeiro stressed.
Ribeiro added that continuous attacks on the water system further jeopardize the health and hygiene of the civilian population, particularly those most vulnerable, including children, and cause further hardship and possible displacement.
The Interior Ministry says the gunmen on Sunday stormed the offices of a water distribution agency that runs a network of underground pipelines providing the capital and the region with water and shut it at gunpoint. The ministry says the gunmen demanded Tripoli release their leader Khalifa Ahnish's brother. The U.N.-backed government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj had blamed a group that also cut the water supplies in 2017, saying its commander, Khalifa Ahnish, belonged to Haftar's forces.
Haftar's forces denied they were responsible for cutting off the water. A commander in his Libyan National Army (LNA) said they had sent reinforcements to secure the pipe.
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. The fighting, which left 454 people dead and 2,154 injured, reached a stalemate, with neither side able to make substantial progress. Some 70,000 people have been displaced because of the fighting. 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 yielded 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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