Officials: Eastern forces bomb Tripoli neighborhoods, 1 dead
CAIRO (AP) — Libya’s eastern-based forces indiscriminately shelled residential neighborhoods around the capital on Thursday, health authorities reported, killing one woman and wounding at least four civilians.
The renewed clashes came just hours after the United Nations Security Council endorsed a 55-point road map for ending the war that demanded foreign backers of Libya’s warring sides uphold a widely flouted arms embargo.
Explosive shells rained down on Tripoli’s southern suburbs, killing a 40-year-old woman in her home in the al-Hadba district. On Wednesday, errant artillery shells had killed a 38-year-old man in a coffee shop in eastern Tripoli and wounded 14 others, said Amin al-Hashmi, a spokesman for the Tripoli-based health ministry.
The latest round of fighting in Libya erupted last spring, when eastern-based forces under the command of Khalifa Hifter launched an assault on Tripoli to wrest it from control of the U.N.-backed government.
The violence has worsened since, as international players with interests in the oil-rich country intervened, sending arms and foreign mercenaries. In the latest twist, Turkey has deployed Syrian fighters affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group to fight on behalf of the Tripoli government, which controls a shrinking corner of the country’s west.
On the other side, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, provide Hifter’s forces with military assistance.
The warring parties have pledged to observe a provisional cease-fire, which each side has accused the other of violating. U.N. efforts to forge a lasting truce faltered last week when rival military officials concluded negotiations in Geneva without signing an agreement, let alone meeting face-to-face.
The Security Council resolution, drawn up by participants in a high-profile peace summit in Berlin, threatens sanctions against countries that violate the arms embargo and condemns the rise in violence, noting a mounting civilian casualty count. The prospect of punishment for foreign backers, some of which sit on the Security Council, seems far off.
Meanwhile the continued combat, rights groups warn, is taking a heavy toll on civilians.
In a report released this week, London-based watchdog Airwars documented a 720% spike in civilian deaths since Hifter launched his offensive last spring. The siege has killed 3,000 people, including roughly 284 civilians, according to the U.N, and forced over 150,000 people to flee. Fighting has forced the shut down of 13 health facilities and 220 schools.
Human Rights Watch revealed Thursday that Hifter’s forces deployed banned cluster munitions in a residential area of Tripoli during a December attack, showing “reckless disregard for the safety of civilians.”
Cluster munitions, notorious for their indiscriminate and long-lasting effect on civilians, explode midair and send dozens of small bomblets flying across a large area. They often fail to detonate on impact, leaving behind dud bomblets that act like unexploded landmines. The New York-based rights group collected remnants of cluster munitions and other high-explosive bombs that landed in the front yard of an 80-year-old Tripoli resident in December, apparently nowhere near a military target.
Libyans are also suffering from the effects of a steep economic collapse, said the International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday, including a shortage of basic items and war-ravaged public infrastructure.
“People’s savings and other resources are dwindling,” said ICRC president Peter Maurer. “More needs to be done to spare civilians from the appalling consequences of the conflict.”