Renewed fighting has broken out between rival armed groups in and around Libya’s capital Tripoli despite a newly-reached truce in the area, leaving dozens of people dead or injured over the past week.
The violence erupted earlier this week, with two of the capital’s largest warring factions linked to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) entangled in street battles over control of the city.
Clashes between the Seventh Brigade from Tarhouna, a town southeast of Tripoli where the GNA is based, and the Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigades (TRB) further escalated after a barrage of rockets hit several parts of the capital.
The two rival groups have been vying to take control of the city despite a truce declared on Tuesday.
The fresh wave of violence has so far killed nearly 40 people, including 18 civilians, and injured some 100 others, according to Libyan health officials.
Human Rights Watch said the death toll included at least four children.
The fragile truce took effect on Thursday, but by late afternoon, the hostilities resumed and more than 15 rockets rained on the Libyan capital and its surroundings the next day.
The bombardment reportedly continued into the early hours of Saturday with a rocket attack on the fourth floor of the al-Waddan Hotel, which is only 100 meters away from the Italian Embassy.
Libyan authorities also had to close the Tripoli airport on Friday after some rockets were fired in its direction.
UN chief urges conflict parties to stop fighting
In a statement on Saturday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the conflicting parties in Libya to immediately cease fire and resume peace talks.
“The Secretary-General calls on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and abide by the ceasefire agreement brokered by the United Nations and the Reconciliation Committees,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in the statement.
“He urges all parties to grant humanitarian relief for those in need, particularly those who are trapped by the fighting,” the spokesman added.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said heavy shelling in residential areas on the outskirts of the Libyan capital had resulted in an unspecified number of casualties. It also said approximately 8,000 refugees and asylum seekers remained trapped in closed detention centers in dire humanitarian conditions.
‘Armed groups weaken Libyan stability’
Meanwhile, the United States, France, Italy and Britain condemned the escalation of violence, warning that armed factions undermining Libyan stability would be held accountable.
“These attempts to weaken the legitimate Libyan authorities and hinder the ongoing political process are not acceptable,” Washington, Paris, Rome and London said in the joint statement published by the French Foreign Ministry.
“We are calling on the armed groups to immediately stop all military action and warn those who seek to undermine stability, in Tripoli or elsewhere in Libya, that they will be made accountable for it,” the statement added.
The interior ministry of Libya’s UN-backed administration also denounced the renewed violence and blamed the rival groups for “undermining the ceasefire … by blindly launching rockets and shells on Tripoli and its suburbs.”
The oil-rich North African country has been in turmoil since 2011, when NATO helped local militants overthrow longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.