Special UN Representative and head of the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Ghassan Salamé has deplored the airstrike slammed into a biscuit factory in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, while people were at work.
Addressing the UN Security Council Monday via videoconference from the Libyan capital, he said he was “angry and sad” by the new mass civilian casualty event that took place the same morning against a local biscuit factory, in which 35 were reportedly injured, and 10 killed in an airstrike attack, yet to be classified as deliberate or indiscriminate.
The Tripoli-based government blamed the airstrike on Hafter’s force, the Libyan National Army (LNA). Yet, LNA issued a statement later on combat operations but did not comment on the accusation.
The past few days have been characterized by incidents like this one, with many families abandoning areas impacted by the shelling, Mr. Salamé said, adding that any further escalation of fighting in Tripoli’s densely-populated areas “would lead to disastrous humanitarian consequences.”
“Seven and a half months into the conflict in Libya, and given the recent dangerous escalation in hostilities in and around Tripoli, we find ourselves ever more in a race against time to reach a peaceful solution that would spare many lives”, Ghassan Salamé said in his briefing to the Security Council.
An early April offensive launched by forces loyal to the LNA against the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli triggered the recent spasms of violence. The offensive reportedly quickly stalled, and both sides have drawn on international support to carry out air strikes, despite last week’s call by the United States for the LNA to halt attacks.
The “dangers and direct consequences of foreign interference are increasingly evident” Mr. Salamé highlighted. To fill manpower gaps, “there is growing involvement of mercenaries and fighters from foreign private military companies” with greater experience that has amplified the scale of the clashes.
Spare parts for fighter aircrafts, tanks, bullets and precision missiles are being shipped into the country to propel rival party supporters in their fighting, the Special Representative explained, along with a plethora of Gaddafi-era arms, which breach a UN arms embargo in the country.
Mitiga Airport, a key outlet for the civilians of Tripoli and Western Libya, has been closed for more than two and a half months due to shelling and airstrikes.
Mr.Salamé said he is working with the GNA Ministers of Interior and Transportation to see the airport reopens, in addition to pursuing Second and Third Steps of a three-step peace initiative he presented during his briefing to the Council in July.
In addition, UNSMIL has engaged in extensive outreach to Libyan constituencies, participating in meetings involving commanders of units engaged in fighting, civilian representatives, and political constituencies. The Mission has also hosted local mediations and efforts to address polarization in the country through workshops on hateful rhetoric, and mediated dialogue between different members of society.