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UN: 250,000 people have fled Libya violence, Haftar threatens Tripoli strikes

UN reports that 250,000 people have fled Libya violence, as Haftar threatens Tripoli and HoR promises return to the capital
Smoke billows from the wreckage of a fallen plane in Libya's Tobruk on Tuesday (Twitter / @enaas_lady)

The UN warned on Thursday of gross violations of international human rights law in the two Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi.

The report stated that a number of the bombings that have hit the capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi in recent months have been indiscriminate.

It also found that some 250,000 people have been forced to flee by four months of fighting in the major cities – the majority of these have fled to other countries, but 100,000 people have been internally displaced by the violence.

Many of those who have attempted to escape the frequent bombings, assassinations and kidnappings have done so by heading for Tunisia, Libya’s neighbour to the east.

Tunisia’s interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said on Thursday that the influx of refugees from Libya was putting a strain on the country’s energy capabilities.

He stressed that the security of Tunisian citizens “remains a top priority for the government.”

Haftar strikes Benghazi, threatens Tripoli

Benghazi saw airstrikes launched overnight launched on Wednesday by renegade General Haftar’s forces.

The strikes hit a huge ammunition arsenal belonging to the fighters in the eastern town, a stronghold of militias fighting under the banner of the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council.

A military leader told Reuters that “government forces and helicopters under the leadership of a former Libyan general bombed huge arsenals belonging to suspected Islamist fighters in Benghazi.”

The most recent such night-time airstrikes were launched by unknown planes in Tripoli on 18 August, sparking reports that they had been carried out by a coalition of Egyptian and Emirati forces, a claim rejected by Egypt.

After claiming responsibility for Wednesday night’s airstrikes on Benghazi, Haftar also threatened to carry out strikes in Tripoli, after his forces lost three planes in the space of a week.

Saqr al-Jerushi, spokesperson for the Libyan air force allied to Haftar, said that government forces are preparing to launch attacks on militia sites around the capital.

The latest of Haftar’s planes to come down in Libya crashed on Tuesday near the seat of the elected House of Representatives in Tobruk, killing the pilot and four children on the ground.

House of Representatives intends return to Tripoli

As Haftar, who began a campaign dubbed “Operation Dignity” aiming to root out militias on 16 May, threatened to renew airstrikes on Tripoli, the House of Representatives (HoR) announced plans to return to the capital, which has been under the control of Libya Dawn fighters for over a week.

The HoR, which was elected in June and held its first session on 4 August, was forced to leave Tripoli and convene in the eastern city of Tobruk after a month of fighting in the capital.

The HoR condemned in a statement on Thursday the “criminal acts” committed by militias, asserting that it is “intent on reoccupying all headquarters” in the capital.

A statement on 31 August had confirmed that “the majority” of ministry and institutional headquarters in Tripoli had fallen out of government control, saying that buildings had been attacked and staff prevented from entering.

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