GENEVA - United Nations aid agencies are expressing deep concern for the safety of civilians in Tripoli as fighting moves closer from the outskirts to the center of the Libyan capital. Troops fighting for renegade general Khalifa Haftar began their battle to seize Tripoli on April 5.
U.N. aid agencies are particularly worried about the situation of some 4,000 refugees and migrants, most from sub-Saharan Africa, who are held in government detention centers in and around Tripoli. Of particular concern are more than 1,500 believed to be trapped in several places of detention close to where the clashes are occurring.
More than 120 people have been killed since a Libyan military commander launched an assault on the capital 10 days ago, igniting clashes with rival militias, the U.N. health agency said Sunday.
The self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, launched a surprise offensive against Tripoli on April 5 and is battling rival militias loosely affiliated with a weak U.N.-backed government.
The World Health Organization said 121 people have been killed in the fighting and another 561 have been wounded.
U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Liz Throssell tells VOA her agency is in contact with Libyan authorities, working to guarantee the safety of those detained near the combat zones.
“This includes advocating with the authorities to allow the relocation of vulnerable individuals to the gathering and departure center," she said. "As you can imagine, this is complicated by the severely restricted access amid the security situation. And, to date, we have facilitated relocation of about 150 vulnerable refugees from the Ain Zara detention center.”
Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.
The United Nations and European Union are urging an immediate end to the fighting in Libya which is threatening to destabilize the entire region.
Rival governments in Libya — the internationally recognized administration of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj in Tripoli, and General Khalifa Haftar's government in the east — are battling for control of the capital.
Throssell says the UNHCR has set up a hot line for refugees and internally displaced people stuck in areas of conflict seeking assistance. She says her agency has transferred medicine and medical equipment to the Ministry of Health. This is to support emergency units and hospitals around Tripoli.
The World Health Organization reports the number of people killed since the conflict erupted April 5 now stands at 174, including 14 civilians. More than 750 have been wounded.
Despite the dangerous security situation, the International Organization for Migration reports one bit of good news. It says it was able to organize a humanitarian relief flight Monday to repatriate 136 migrants to Nigeria.