13 dead, thousands trapped or displaced in Libyan conflict

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At least 13 people have been killed and 35 injured from fighting in the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya, and thousands more are trapped or displaced, a UN spokesman said on Monday.

"These (casualty) numbers reflect only those cases that could be individually verified, and so should be considered a minimum," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that thousands of civilians remain trapped in conflict-affected areas on the southern outskirts of the capital city, Dujarric said. "Only a few hundred families have been able to be brought to safety so far due to ongoing clashes."

"We are having great challenges in reaching people," he said. "We've seen the targeting of ambulances, of medical personnel which is completely unacceptable."

"We have observed increased indiscriminate shelling in residential areas and attacks on civilian infrastructure and again are reminding the parties of their obligations to follow international humanitarian law," Dujarric said.

According to the International Organization for Migration, the overall number of people displaced since the eruption of new clashes has reached well over 18,000.

The spokesman said close to 3,000 refugees and migrants were trapped in detention centers in or close to conflict-affected areas.

"We are having a very difficult time reaching those centers," he said. "The report that we are getting is that the guards or whoever have been managing the facilities have abandoned their posts, which means these people who are already living in very difficult conditions are not getting the food and water that they require."

The people in the centers arrived in Libya from elsewhere, expecting to make it a jumping-off point on their way to Europe.

Guterres has repeatedly warned that Libya is not a state port for disembarkation for human beings whether they are migrants or whether they are refugees, noted Dujarric.

In statements made over the weekend, Ghassan Salame, special representative of the secretary-general for Libya, said that the conflict is severely impacting the lives and the living conditions of the Libyan people.

On Sunday, Salame and his deputy, Stephanie Williams, met in Tripoli with the President of the Presidency Council in Libya, Fayez Serraj and mayors from the western part of the country. Discussions focused on the necessity for an immediate halt to the fighting, protection of civilians and provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in need.

Fighting erupted earlier this month when a rebel general led his forces, called the Libyan National Army, on Tripoli, letting loose barrages of heavy artillery on the capital's outskirts last week.

"Our concern is that this conflict that we are seeing does not escalate out of control," said Dujarric. "It is clear to all that there are parties in Libya and then there are parties outside of Libya who have influence on those doing the fighting. It is important that all the parties on the outside bring pressure to bear on their Libyan partners to ensure that the fighting stops."

"Our appeal is for all the parties to immediately cease the fighting, to create at least a humanitarian pause for us to help the people in Tripoli," the spokesman said.

"The humanitarian community in Libya continues to operate on extremely low funding levels," he said. "Just 6 percent of the requirements of the 202-million-dollar humanitarian response plan for 2019 have been met, according to OCHA."

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