Five women killed in shelling near Tripoli: Libya official

Five women killed in shelling near Tripoli: Libya official
Mortar shells hit civilian houses in Libya's capital Tripoli, killing five woman and wounding five others, including a child.
2 min read
19 March, 2020
Fighters loyal to the GNA gather in south of the Libyan capital Tripoli [AFP/Getty]

Five women were killed and five others were wounded, including a child, when their houses were shelled near Libya's capital Tripoli, a health official with the UN-recognised government said Thursday.

Mortar shells hit civilian houses late Wednesday in the towns of Ain Zara and Bin Ghahsir to the south of the capital, leaving exclusively female casualties, according to Amin al-Hashemi, the Tripoli-based government's health spokesman.

War-torn Libya is largely divided between forces backing the Government of National Accord (GNA) and those of eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar, who backs a rival administration in the country's east. 

Last year, the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which is allied with the eastern government, launched a military offensive to wrestle the capital from its western rival. 

The offensive has led to a military stalemate, killed hundreds of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands.

The United Nations and nine countries on Tuesday called on Libya's warring parties to cease hostilities to allow health authorities to fight against the new coronavirus.

In a joint statement, the ambassadors of Algeria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain and the United states, as well as the European Union delegation to Libya and the governments of Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates called for a "humanitarian truce".

They called on the warring parties to "declare an immediate, humanitarian cessation of hostilities... to allow local authorities to respond to the unprecedented public health challenge posed by COVID-19".

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya joined the call, urging asking all parties "to join forces immediately before it is too late to face this overwhelming, fast-spreading threat".

To date, no cases of COVID-19 have been reported by either adminstration, but experts fear an outbreak could be catastrophic due to the country's degraded health system.

Read more: Macron meets Libya's Haftar in bid to secure ceasefire

A fragile truce entered into force on January 12, but there have been repeated violations.

After closing schools last week, the GNA said on Monday it was closing land borders and halting flights in the west of the country to keep out the virus.

In the east, borders remain open with Egypt, which has reported 166 cases of COVID-19.

Earlier this year, world leaders convened in Germany to mediate a cease-fire between the country's warring parties but so far diplomatic efforts have failed to result in a cessation of violence.

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