By Sami Zaptia.
London, 8 May 2019:
Hostilities have continued in the Tripoli fighting along the established frontlines on the outskirts of the capital, despite UNSMIL calls for a humanitarian truce to coincide with the start of the holy month of Ramadan, the UN’s Libya Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report confirms.
The fighting continues as the World Health Organization latest report revealed today that the death toll rose to 443 and wounded to 2,110 since the outbreak of fighting on 4 April.
The OCHA report said that airstrikes, rocket/shelling attacks and armed clashes have taken place against various military positions in and around Tripoli ‘‘at the same intensity as previous days’’, with ‘‘no significant gains for either side’’.
In the absence of a humanitarian truce, the report said, civilians trapped in conflict areas remain unable to move freely to safer areas and humanitarian actors’ access to those in need remains restricted.
It will be recalled that on 5 May, UNSMIL called on all parties to observe a one-week, extendable truce to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need and to provide for the freedom of movement of civilians. However, on the same day, LNA commander Khalifa Haftar issued a statement calling on his forces to redouble their efforts in fighting during Ramadan, the OCHA report noted.
The report says that to date, 104 civilian casualties have been verified by the Health Sector, including 23 civilian deaths. These include four health workers killed, with one other doctor injured, since hostilities commenced. The report reminds that these figures include only cases that could be individually verified, and so must be considered a minimum.
The report also says that 58,800 persons have now fled their homes as a result of the armed conflict. With about 3,900 new IDPs having been identified since 5 May in all the north western region.
The report continued to express concern over delays and inconsistencies in the import and customs clearance of humanitarian cargo entering Libya. Medical supplies have been reported to be sealed in warehouses, unable to be distributed. The UN is raising the issue with authorities in hope of expediting the delivery of urgently needed assistance, the report added.
The report stated that Libyan households, refugees and migrants in areas closest to frontline fighting are the most adversely impacted with regards to displacement. Freedom of movement was found to be partially or completely restricted in most of the areas assessed due to proximity to armed conflict, limiting the ability of refugees and migrants to move freely, or to be evacuated, to safer areas.
Refugees and migrants relying on daily wage labour found it hard to find jobs, as well as a lack of access to markets and food. Facing the same insecurities as conflict-affected Libyans, refugees and migrants are especially vulnerable as they lack similar extended family/social networks on whom to rely for shelter/support in times of crisis and face discrimination in accessing collective shelters and other services.
The report says that about 168,000 urban refugees and migrants were estimated to be residing in the assessed areas prior to the crisis. Nearly 3,500 refugees and migrants also remain trapped in detention centres exposed to or at risk of armed conflict. Some urban refugees and migrants have requested to be taken into detention due to the lack of available shelter and services, the report reveals.
Meanwhile, on the fighting front, the news has been dominated by the alleged capture of a foreign ‘‘mercenary’’ pilot from a downed jet fighter aligned to the Faiez Serraj internationally recognized Presidency Council and Government of National Accord (PC/GNA).
The Hafter-led Libyan National Army (LNA) claimed that the downed fighter jet was a Mirage FI. Media sources widely reported that the pilot reported that he was Portuguese giving his name as Jimmy Reise/Reece/Reyes. The claims were accompanied with photographs of the alleged pilot receiving medical treatment. Social media, meanwhile, carried video footage of the alleged Portuguese fighter pilot. None of this confirms yet that the LNA had shot down a jet fighter piloted by this foreign ‘‘mercenary’’.
On the political front, Faiez Serraj is on a diplomatic tour of the European capitals of Italy, Germany, France and the UK in an attempt to put forward his case and seek pressure on Hafter to ceasefire and withdraw to the status que ante.