Three children lost their lives Wednesday when forces loyal to putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar fired rockets on the Libyan capital Tripoli, despite recent calls from the international community to halt hostilities during the novel coronavirus outbreak.
According to the health ministry of the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), the three children, belonging to the same family, died after a rocket hit the southern Ain Zara region.
Another woman in a car was killed about an hour earlier in a rocket attack on the Bab bin Gashir region. The woman’s daughter and niece, also present in the vehicle, were wounded.
Heavy clashes broke out on Tripoli's front lines as Haftar's soldiers attacked Salah Al-Deen, Ain Zara and the Airport Road areas, achieving brief advances in the early morning. Libyan Army forces under the command of the GNA, after receiving military reinforcements, managed to repel the attacks and regain lost positions, pushing Haftar's troops away. Libyan Army forces lost eight fighters and several others were wounded in the battle. GNA's Libyan Army spokesman, Mohammad Qanunu, said they had tackled repeated violations of the cease-fire by Haftar's forces on Ain Zara, reiterating that the Libyan Army is committed to the truce.
For the last three days, Haftar's forces have been trying to dominate the Al-Ramla front line near Tripoli International Airport in order to control the Al-Sawani and Al-Zahraa areas in an effort to disconnect Tripoli from the Western Mountain region.
Tuesday, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) echoed calls from the group's international partners requesting a cessation of hostilities and a halt in the transfer of military equipment and personnel into Libya, to allow local authorities to respond to the unprecedented public health challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
UNSMIL’s statement came after the European Union and eight Western and North African countries called for a pause of the fighting in Libya earlier in the day.
UNSMIL further urged that “COVID-19 has no affiliation and breaks through all front lines,” calling on all Libyans to join forces to combat this overwhelming, fast-spreading threat, which requires consolidating all resources and efforts for prevention, awareness and the treatment of possible victims.
Conflict in Libya erupted between the two rival factions that emerged following the ousting of late ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 – namely, eastern-based Haftar and the GNA in Tripoli. Haftar is primarily supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, while the GNA in Tripoli enjoys U.N. and international recognition. Although a cease-fire was reached on Jan. 12, following U.N.-led diplomatic negotiations for a peaceful political solution, forces loyal to Haftar have repeatedly violated the truce.
GNA forces have been under attack by Haftar's troops since last April, with more than 1,000 people killed in the violence.
UNSMIL calls for crime investigation
UNSMIL called for investigations into crimes committed in Libya during the conflict on Wednesday, expressing deep concerns over the recent increase in abductions in towns and cities across the country. Since April 2019, the group has received reports of hundreds of disappearances, torture, killings and the displacement of families. UNSMIL renewed its call for the full respect of international human rights and humanitarian laws by all parties in the conflict.
“UNSMIL recalls that torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings are a violation of international law, the Constitutional Declaration of 2011, domestic applicable law and, depending on the precise circumstances, may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. UNSMIL also calls for the establishment of an investigative mechanism by the UN Human Rights Council, as the simplest and strongest basis for promoting accountability in Libya,” a statement on their website said.
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