UNSMIL welcomes reduced fighting, confirms truce violations, invites truce extension and prisoner exchange

By Sami Zaptia.

London, 14 August 2019:

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) today welcomed the reduced fighting between the forces defending Tripoli and the pro Khalifa Hafter forces during its brokered humanitarian truce over the days of the Eid Al-Adha (feast of sacrifice) holidays.

But it also confirmed numerous truce violations by the Hafter side. It also offered its services to facilitate a prisoner exchange and invited both sides to extend the truce.

It also called on the international community to play a positive, proactive role in ending the fighting and a return to political dialogue.

Here is UNSMIL’s full statement:

Following the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) call upon the parties on 8 August to express their commitment to a humanitarian truce on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, the mission welcomes the positive response by the parties and the palpable reduction of violence in the Tripoli area.

On 9 August, the Government of National Accord promptly responded to the mission’s call and announced a unilateral cessation of hostilities in all areas of clashes, under the condition that the Libyan National Army cease all ground and air operations including reconnaissance flights as well as movements and mobilization of forces. The Libyan National Army on 10 August, after the expiration of the Mission’s publicly declared deadline, announced the halt of military operations only in the suburbs of Tripoli for the duration of 48 hours starting at 1500 on the same day, thus setting its own time window.

Despite the notable reduction in violence during the period of the truce, violations were reported to the mission. In the morning hours of 11 August, tank and artillery fire was reported in the Salahaddin area. Later in the morning, three Grad rockets were fired indiscriminately from southern Tripoli towards Mitiga Airport; two rockets impacted the airport causing material damage to the runway, which forced a temporary halt to air operations; and one rocket hit a residential building in the adjacent neighbourhood, injuring four civilians. During mid-day, tank and artillery fire were reported in the Kasirma area north of Tripoli International Airport. In the evening hours, skirmishes were reported in Wadi Rabia and the Salahaddin area. Moreover, overflights by unmanned reconnaissance aircraft over the city of Misrata continued during the day. On 12 August, skirmishes were reported in the Tweisheh area south of Tripoli International Airport, in addition to overflights by unmanned reconnaissance aircraft over the city during the day.  UNSMIL reiterates that indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas may constitute a war crime.

The truce was not respected in Murzuq where communal violence between the Tebu and al-Ahali communities continued, killing seven individuals and wounding 54 others. UNSMIL also received continued reports of burned houses, lootings and other retaliatory attacks. As of 12 August, the ongoing acts of violence displaced approximately 5,000 individuals to Wadi Ettebah and around 200 to Al Gatroun area.  

The Special Representative of the Secretary General offers UNSMIL’s continued assistance to facilitate the exchange of prisoners, is prepared to name a focal point, and to suggest a mechanism for these exchanges in cooperation with the parties and relevant local social leaders.

The SRSG also announces the readiness of UNSMIL to immediately use its good offices to transform what was accomplished in the period of truce into a permanent ceasefire.

UNSMIL welcomes the International Community’s declarations of support for the truce and renews the SRSG’s proposal to convene a meeting of concerned countries.  The International Community should work towards providing guarantees for a permanent ceasefire, a call for upholding the arms embargo, and a commitment to return in good faith to a UN-sponsored comprehensive political process to end the Libyan conflict. 

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