The attacks on vital medical facilities needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic by forces loyal to putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar continued for a second consecutive day, health authorities of the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) said Tuesday.
A barrage of Grad rockets hit Tripoli’s Al-Khadra Hospital, where over 300 patients were being treated, including two for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and many for shrapnel wounds and burns from bombs.
The assault, sharply condemned by the United Nations, wounded a Bangladeshi medical worker Monday and forced a group of patients to evacuate when missiles hit part of the maternity unit and the power system failed, said Tripoli health ministry official Amin al-Hashemi. Patients with chronic illnesses continued to be evacuated Tuesday.
In recent weeks eastern-based forces under the command of warlord Haftar have escalated their yearlong siege on the capital, despite appeals for a cease-fire so authorities can focus their resources on the pandemic. Their attack on Al-Khadra was the third such strike on a Tripoli medical facility over the past month
Emptying the wards as the bombs fell required a major logistical effort that put seriously ill people at risk, al-Hashemi added. The coronavirus patients remained isolated during their transfer to a safer facility.
Three civilians were wounded as shells crashed into cars and houses in the surrounding neighborhood of Abu Salim.
“At a moment when people in Libya needed nothing more than a safe home and functioning medical facilities, we received the news of yet another attack on a hospital,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Coordinator for Libya Yacoub El Hillo said in a written statement Monday.
Highlighting that this act was a clear violation of international humanitarian law, Hillo said: “I am appalled to have learned that heavy shelling hit Tripoli’s Al-Khadra General Hospital today, injuring at least one health worker and damaging the fully functioning medical facility.”
“The repeated calls by the United Nations and the international community for a cessation of hostilities have only been met with complete disregard and intensified fighting. This is unacceptable at a time when health care and health workers are vital in our fight against a global pandemic,” the U.N. coordinator added.
The 400-bed Al-Khadra hospital was one of the potential COVID-19 assigned health facilities.
According to the U.N., as of March 2020, a total of 27 health facilities have been damaged to varying degrees due to their proximity to clashes, including 14 health facilities that have been closed and another 23 which are at risk of closure due to shifting lines of conflict.