By Sami Zaptia.
London, 20 April 2020:
UNSMIL said today that it is extremely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Tripoli and its surroundings as a result of the intensification of fighting in the past few days.
It reported at least 28 civilians injured and five killed, including women and children, due to the dramatic increase of ‘‘indiscriminate shelling on civilian-populated areas’’, including Ain Zara, Al-Swani, Tareeq al Shoak, Souq Al-Juma,, Al-Krimya, Al-Furnaj and Arada.
It said these attacks have also resulted in renewed displacement and damage to civilian properties and infrastructure. On 17 April, the Royal Hospital in Tripoli was also hit, resulting in extensive damage to the intensive care unit and the evacuation of staff and patients, it added.
UNSMIL said it was also alarmed by the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Tarhouna, due to the military escalation in and around the city, resulting in the fresh displacement of civilians. It added that the dire humanitarian situation is further exacerbated by the continued electricity cuts, in what is an ‘‘apparent collective punishment of the people of the city’’, in retaliation against cutting off the gas supply to the Khoms and Misrata power station.
It called on all parties involved to immediately end the electricity cut and restore the flow of gas immediately. It said it was also concerned about the reported arbitrary arrests of civilians and mistreatment of both civilians and fighters in Tarhouna.
UNSMIL reminded all parties to the conflict that indiscriminate attacks, as well as the targeting of hospitals and other medical facilities, and intentionally cutting off electricity, fuel, water or food supplies are violations of international humanitarian law and could, depending on the circumstances, amount to war crimes. It said that attacks that damage or otherwise affect the regular functioning of healthcare facilities are even more deplorable in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, given that the country’s health system is already over-stretched and under-resourced.
It noted that at a time when Muslims around the world prepare to receive and celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, Libyans are living in a constant state of fear as attacks against civilians, with full impunity, increase by the day and become more flagrant and diversified. It said that this senseless, protracted war must stop immediately.
It renewed its call for a humanitarian truce to allow Libyans to prepare for the holy month in peace and the authorities to provide the urgently needed services, to treat the wounded and address the mounting threat of COVID-19.