By Sami Zaptia.
London, 5 August 2019:
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya Ghassan Salame yesterday condemned the repeated indiscriminate shelling targeting Mitiga airport, describing the airport as the only indispensable functioning airport available for use by millions of civilians and for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the greater Tripoli area.
The statement said that these attacks have continued unabated since the start of the Libyan National Army (LNA) offensive against Tripoli on 4 April despite United Nations’ calls for the protection of all civilian infrastructure and for precautions to protect the civilian population.
It added that ahead of the upcoming season of pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, attacking Mitiga airport jeopardises the ability of pilgrims from Western Libya to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.
Salame’s condemnation comes after more than 250 pilgrims were affected by strikes against the airport on Saturday forcing them to seek alternative arrangements, after projectiles hit the immediate vicinity of the taxiway used by commercial airliners.
The UNSMIL head reminded parties to the ongoing Libyan conflict that the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution must at all times be fully respected in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian laws. All feasible precautions must be taken to protect the civilian population, he added.
Salame also noted that the repeated strikes against Mitiga airport are one element of the increasing violence affecting the civilian population. He expressed his continued concern over the broader impact on those directly affected by the fighting, including the thousands of civilians trapped in frontline areas and the hundreds of thousands of displaced.
To alleviate and start to address these urgent humanitarian priorities, Salame reiterated his call for a truce to start on the upcoming Eid al Adha (feast of sacrifice).