Civilian casualties and displacement expected to increase due to continued use of air strikes and heavy artillery: UN report

By Sami Zaptia.

London, 15 April 2019:

Civilian casualties and displacement is expected to increase due to the continued use of air strikes and heavy artillery the latest UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report said.

It added that frontline and referral hospitals in Tripoli and surrounding areas are receiving daily casualties, according to health sector partners. Forty-eight civilian casualties have been confirmed since the start of current hostilities, including 13 civilian deaths. Civilian casualties and displacement are expected to increase further given the continued use of air strikes and heavy artillery. According to the IOM, the report says that over 2,500 civilians fled hostilities in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of people displaced to approximately 18,250. 

It adds that thousands of civilians remain stuck in conflict-affected areas in the southern outskirts of Tripoli despite having requested evacuation assistance, with only some few hundred families brought to safety. Low evacuation rates have been attributed to ongoing clashes, reports of the indiscriminate use of weapons, and reports of deliberate targeting of ambulance vehicles. Doctors and ambulance drivers are reportedly pulling out of the rescue operations, citing the unsustainable risk they are being exposed to, the report says.

The report says that the day after a school was severely damaged as the result of an air strike, UNICEF has confirmed that, on 14 April, a Ministry of Education warehouse in Ain Zara was severely damaged by shelling. The warehouse is said to have contained over four million copies of textbooks for basic and secondary education.

It warned that humanitarians have noted with growing concern the daily occurrence of fighting – particularly the use of heavy artillery and airstrikes in urban areas – impacting civilian objects. The humanitarian community continues to call on all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international law to refrain from targeting educational and health facilities and personnel as well as civilian infrastructure, it added.

It said that reports have also been received that ‘Fallah 2’ IDP settlement was used to shoot at a military plane, jeopardizing the civilian character of the IDP camp and endangering civilian lives.

The OCHA report says that some 3,000 refugees and migrants remain trapped in detention centers in Abusliem, Gharyan and Qasr bin Ghashir, in close proximity to ongoing hostilities. Adding to the risk of close proximity to fighting, detention centres have in some cases been abandoned by guards, leaving detainees to their own devices without basic supplies. At Qasr Ben Ghasir, where about 800 migrants remain, food security partners managed to deliver emergency meals, but supplies are expected to run out in four days.

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