|Date: Apr 10, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Suffering on the rise from Libya armed conflict, migrants moved|
TRIPOLI/GENEVA: Casualties from the battle for Libya’s capital mounted Tuesday and the United Nations moved dozens of migrants to safety from a detention center in the south of the city where fighting had raged nearby. Medical facilities reported 47 people killed and 181 wounded in recent days as eastern Libyan National Army forces seek to take Tripoli from an internationally-recognized government, the World Health Organization said.
The fatalities were mainly fighters, although they also comprised nine civilians, including two doctors, the WHO said.
In central Tripoli, while there were no signs yet of military and security vehicles or personnel on the streets, shops and cafes were closing earlier than usual in the evening and residents were apprehensive about the prospect of violence.
“War is war: I am not afraid of the Libyan National Army, but I am afraid of the destruction that will never be reconstructed,” said Mohammad Salem al-Sharwe, a taxi driver in Tripoli.
The LNA forces of Khalifa Haftar - a former general in ousted strongman Moammar Gadhafi’s army - seized the sparsely populated but oil-rich south earlier this year before heading toward Tripoli this month.
They are fighting on the southern side of the city, where witnesses said Monday afternoon the LNA had lost control of a former airport and withdrawn down the road.
The government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who has run Tripoli since 2016 as part of a U.N.-brokered deal that Haftar boycotted, is seeking to repel the LNA with the help of armed groups from Misrata.
Sarraj’s forces carried out an airstrike on an LNA position in the suburb of Souq al-Khamis Tuesday, a resident and an eastern military source said, without giving more details.
The renewed conflict threatens to disrupt oil supplies, boost migration across the Mediterranean to Europe and scupper U.N. plans for an election to end rivalries between parallel administrations in east and west.
Some 5,700 refugees and migrants are trapped in Libya’s detention centers in conflict areas, U.N. agencies say.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said it had relocated more than 150 refugees from the Ain Zara detention center in south Tripoli Tuesday to a UNHCR facility in a safe zone.
There had been heavy clashes near the Ain Zara center in recent days, the agency said in a statement. A U.N.-sponsored peace conference, scheduled to start Sunday in the southwestern town of Ghadames, was postponed by envoy Ghassan Salame, who said he was working to hold the meeting “as soon as possible.”
The United Nations, United States, European Union and G-7 bloc have appealed for a cease-fire, a return to a U.N. peace plan, and a halt to Haftar’s push.
Monday, a warplane took out Tripoli’s only functioning airport, and the number of displaced people - 3,400 at the last U.N. count - is mounting alongside the casualties.
Far south of Tripoli, Daesh (ISIS) claimed responsibility for attacking the town of Fuqaha, where residents said three people were killed and another kidnapped. The attack indicated Daesh may be looking to exploit gaps left by movements of Haftar’s troops.
Fuqaha is controlled by fighters loyal to Haftar, who casts himself as a foe of Islamist extremism, though he is viewed by opponents as a new dictator in the mold of Gadhafi.