By Libya Herald reporters.
Tunis and Tripoli, . . .[restrict]20 September 2015:
The UK’s ambassador has apparently distanced himself from a joint statement from a number of mainly western ambassadors which condemned the Libyan armed forces for targeting civilians in Benghazi.
Diplomatic sources have told the Libya Herald that UK ambassador Peter Millett withdrew a tweet echoing the joint protest, because it was realised that it was based merely on reports. The facts of deliberate targeting of civilians by the Libyan army, had not been established, said the sources.
The joint statement issued by ambassadors from the EU, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, UK, US, Turkey and Morocco condemned “ the sharp rise in hostilities in Libya on the eve of the Eid Al-Adha including air strikes against civilian population in Benghazi”.
A similar statement from UNSMIL touched on the alleged civilian targeting more obliquely. It said: “The Mission calls on the parties to the conflict to cease immediately all indiscriminate attacks, noting that attacks against civilians are prohibited under international humanitarian law and could constitute war crimes, and that those responsible will be fully held accountable”.
Though unlike the EU, which does not mention IS and Ansar Al-Sharia attacks in Benghazi, UNSMIL called on all parties to the conflict to spare civilians.
Both statements have reignited claims by Libyans that both the UN and EU and US envoys are biased towards Islamists. Social media posts have demanded proof that government airstrikes have deliberately been targeted at civilians.
It is known that a few families are still trapped in Sabri, where IS fighters continue to hang on despite repeated efforts by the Libyan army to dislodge them. Other areas in the west of the city have been reduced to rubble by what is largely urban warfare. Most of the inhabitants have fled, often after warnings from the army.
It is not believed that IS and Ansar have published pictures of civilian deaths caused by airstrikes and artillery bombardment. There has however been a steady trickle of civilian deaths caused by mortars, shelling and occasionally rockets fired from IS/Ansar lines. Last month for instance, four children were killed in one such attack.
This evening the Islamist Justice and Construction party condemned what it called the “terrorist acts” of Armed Forced Commander-in-Chief General Khalifa Hafter. Damning “Operation Doom” launched yesterday by the army in the hope of finally securing Benghazi, the party’s statement said that Hafter was renewing the “targeting civilians at random” in the city.
The Justice and Construction party welcomed UNSMIL’s criticism of “the military escalation in the city of Benghazi and we call on the international community to take strict punitive measures against perpetrators of crimes against humanity”.
There has not yet been any formal reaction to the UNSMIL and the envoys’ statements from the government in Beida nor the House of Representatives. [/restrict]