Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 November 2019

More than 120 killed as Libya's rivals battle for Tripoli

About 560 people have been wounded since fighting began on April 4

Many Libyans have had to flee their homes due to the fighting between the Eastern forces commanded by Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognised government, reacts at Bader School, which is used as a shelter, in Tripoli, Libya April 14, 2019. REUTERS
Many Libyans have had to flee their homes due to the fighting between the Eastern forces commanded by Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognised government, reacts at Bader School, which is used as a shelter, in Tripoli, Libya April 14, 2019. REUTERS

Fighting near Tripoli has killed 121 people since strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive this month to take the Libyan capital, the World Health Organisation said on Sunday.

General Haftar's forces and those of the UN-backed government of National Accord have claimed advances but neither appears to have made real progress in recent days.

With more than 560 people wounded since the fighting started on April 4, the WHO said it was sending more medical supplies and staff to Tripoli.

The agency denounced "repeated attacks on healthcare workers" and vehicles during the fighting.

The UN's humanitarian co-ordination office said on Saturday that three medical personnel had been killed and that shrapnel had put five ambulances out of action.

The mounting violence has sparked global alarm over the country, which has been in turmoil since Nato-backed forces overthrew former dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

Gen Haftar's offensive began shortly before a conference set for this month to discuss Libya's future. The UN cancelled the event as his forces closed in on the capital.

His Libyan National Army has pushed from his power base in the country's east towards the Libyan capital in the west, which is the seat of the unity government led by Fayez Al Sarraj.

The government said its forces on Sunday shot down an LNA fighter jet that which was preparing for air strikes south of Tripoli.

An LNA source said the plane had come down in an area under its control and that the pilot, who had ejected, was "safe and sound".

At that time. Gen Haftar met in Cairo with his key backer, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, whose office said he pledged support for "efforts to fight terrorism and extremist militias to achieve security and stability throughout the country".

Gen Haftar also has the support of some Gulf Arab states and Russia.

Many panicked residents have fled their homes as gunfire echoed through city blocks and tanks rumbled in towns and districts south of Tripoli.

More than 13,500 people have been displaced and about 900 are living in shelters, the UN humanitarian office said.

Both sides have launched daily air raids and accuse each other of aiming for civilians.

One air strike the GNA blamed on Gen Haftar's jets hit a school in Ain Zara, south of Tripoli, which has been the scene of violent clashes for days.

On Sunday, the UN mission in Libya warned that international humanitarian law "prohibits the bombing of schools, hospitals, ambulances and civilian areas".

The mission said it would document all breaches to inform the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court.

The LNA accused the Tripoli forces of an air raid against civilians in the Gasr Ben Ghachir region south of Tripoli.

GNA spokesman Mohamed Gnounou said his forces had carried out 21 air strikes on the LNA and its supply lines between Friday and Saturday.

Updated: April 15, 2019 08:46 AM

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