Amidst a fighting stalemate: The Pope calls for peace in Libya, death toll rises and a state of emergency is announced in Tripoli

By Sami Zaptia.

London, 20 April 2019:

As the Pope called for peace in Libya, the Faiez Serraj Ministry of Interior announced a state of emergency in Tripoli as the number of deaths and wounded continue to rise in the Tripoli fighting. The stalemate in the fighting continues as both sides claim progress and victories.

The World Health Organization reported in its latest figures that the death toll as a result of the Tripoli clashes has reached 254 with 1,228 people injured. These included civilians such as health workers, women and children. The internally displaced have reached 32.000.

It said that over the past week, its specialized emergency medical teams in frontline hospitals handled 89 major and 63 surgeries. It is continuing to bring in additional help for these hospitals.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in its latest report said that refugees and migrants continue to face discrimination to access collective shelters. It said that its humanitarian partners continue to call for their rights to be protected and for their safe and unimpeded access to shelter and life-saving assistance.

It reported that civilians and civilian infrastructure continue to be severely harmed in hostilities. OCHA reported that medical teams continue working relentlessly to evacuate and care for people wounded in the conflict, revealing that since the start of the hostilities, 11 ambulances have been damaged.

Medical personnel, facilities, and the wounded and sick must be protected, it said, reminding all sides that under international humanitarian law, all parties must take constant care to spare them.

During his traditional Easter Sunday address at the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis urged world leaders to try again to bring peace to Libya. “May conflict and bloodshed cease in Libya, where defenceless people are once more dying in recent weeks,” Francis said.

“I urge the parties involved to choose dialogue over force and to avoid reopening wounds left by a decade of conflicts and political instability.” He added.

In Tripoli, the Interior Ministry of the Faiez Serraj internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) declared a state of emergency in the capital on Sunday.

Fathi Bashagha, the GNA’s Interior Ministry said that “the anti-terrorism unit of the General Directorate of Central Support Department of Tajura, began to conduct patrols and establish security centres to secure the entrances and exits of the capital Tripoli.”

The ministry was raising its status to “maximum readiness and security preparedness to deal firmly with the violators and those wanted for justice; and refer them to the competent authorities.”

The Serraj GNA Spokesperson, Muhanad Younis, denied rumours that his government was having talks with the ‘‘Khalifa Hafter war criminal gang’’. He reiterated that the Serraj government was continuing to push back the aggressors until they are defeated and returned to where they had come from. The GNA has called for a UN fact-finding mission to be set up and sent to Tripoli.

The Serraj-aligned forces claimed progress on a number of fronts as part of its new offensive phase. They claimed to have captured a number of Hafter prisoners of war and armoured vehicles as their Air Force carried out a number of air strikes. They claim to be creeping forward at the foothills, on route to climbing the road up the Western Nefusa Mountains towards Gharian.

Independent sources confirmed that the Serraj forces had made some territorial gains in the Ain Zara and Wadi Rabea areas.

Meanwhile, the Khalifa Hafter-led Libyan National Army (LNA) side have claimed more ‘‘advances’’ following more air strikes on Tripoli outskirts, hitting the old Banana Project site (Mashrou Al-Moz) and reported fierce battles in the Ain Zara area.

Armed with support by President Trump’s anti-terror narrative, LNA Spokesperson, Mohamed Mesmari, reiterated that the LNA’s Tripoli operation was an operation against terrorism. He claimed that the Serraj-aligned forces are storing weapons and military equipment in residential areas.

Mesmari said that the Serraj-led GNA had allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate state institutions, controlling the Central Bank of Libya, the National Oil Corporation and other state institutions. He claimed that there are signs of collapse and defeat in the ranks of the anti-Hafter forces.

Mitiga airport continued to operate after a brief closure Sunday for ‘‘safety procedures’’, denying that it had come under attack by an air strike. Its flights continue to operate during a restricted window from 5pm to 8am.

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