Libyan Red Crescent workers recover migrants bodies after an airstrike at a detention center in Tajoura, east of Tripoli Wednesday, July 3, 2019. An airstrike hit the detention center for migrants early Wednesday in the Libyan capital. (AP Photo…
Libyan Red Crescent workers recover migrants bodies after an airstrike at a detention center in Tajoura, east of Tripoli, July 3, 2019.

The United Nations envoy to Libya says the airstrikes on a detention center for migrants outside of Libya's capital that killed at least 40 people could be a war crime.

Ghassan Salame said in a statement Wednesday the strikes "clearly could constitute a war crime" as they "killed, by surprise, innocent people whose dire conditions forced them to be in that shelter."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and African Union have also condemned airstrikes, which wounded more than 130 people.

Libyan health officials said in addition to those killed in the strikes late Tuesday, another 80 people were wounded.

U.N. High Commission for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in the aftermath of the attacks that civilians must not be targets, that migrants and refugees should not be detained, and that Libya is not a safe place to return migrants who are rescued trying to make the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

Grandi called on those countries with influence on the parties involved in Libya's conflict to work together to end the fighting.

The battle for control of Libya's internationally-recognized government and the Libyan National Army (LNA) of a rival government led by general Khalifa Haftar has been raging for months in the Tripoli suburbs with little progress made.  The U.N.-backed government blamed the LNA for the strikes.

African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat called for all sides to ensure the safety of civilians, especially detained migrants, while demanding an independent investigation into Tuesday's airstrikes.

Blood stains are seen on a police car at a detention center for mainly African migrants, hit by an airstrike in the Tajoura suburb of Tripoli.

Libya has been a main point of departure for migrants who flee their homes in parts of Africa to get away from poverty and violence.  But thousands of migrants have been intercepted at sea and returned to detention centers where the United Nations says they face inhumane conditions.

The UNHCR had earlier warned that migrants should be moved out of the shelter that was struck Tuesday.

"The detainees in Tajoura escaped a near miss just weeks ago. We had urged warring parties not to target them," said UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley.  "Callous disregard for human life. Those responsible should be held to account."