UN calls for Libya ceasefire as death toll climbs to 1,000

According to the UN, some 5,700 refugees and migrants are being held in detention centres in Libya, 3,300 of whom are vulnerable to fighting in and around Tripoli.
UN calls for Libya ceasefire as death toll climbs to 1,000

The UN Security Council called Friday for a ceasefire inLibya as the death toll from a three-month offensive on Tripoli reached 1,000,including scores killed in an air strike that hit a detention centre formigrants.

The council condemned the late Tuesday attack on the Tajouradetention camp east of Tripoli and "stressed the need for all parties tourgently de-escalate the situation and to commit to a ceasefire", said ajoint statement.

Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces hold easternLibya and much of the country's south, launched an offensive in early April towrestle the capital from forces loyal to the UN-recognised Government ofNational Accord (GNA).

Air strikes and ground fighting have since left nearly 1,000people dead and some 5,000 wounded, the UN's World Health Organization said.

The fighting has forced more than 100,000 people to fleetheir homes and threatens to plunge Libya into deeper conflict.

Among the dead are 53 migrants killed Tuesday night in anair raid on a detention centre in the Tripoli suburb of Tajoura, held by theGNA, which accused Haftar's forces of carrying out the strike.

A Geneva-based spokesman for the International Organizationfor Migration said six children were among the migrants killed.

Joel Millman said that 350 migrants, including 20 women andfour children, were still detained at the centre, one of five air hangars hitin the raid.

World powers have been divided over how to respond toHaftar's offensive, with the United States and Russia refusing to condemn theLibyan strongman.

The British-drafted council statement condemned the attackon the migrant camp, called for a return to political talks and for fullrespect of the arms embargo on Libya.

It followed a closed-door council meeting on Wednesdayduring which US diplomats said they needed more time to consult with Washingtonon the proposed text.

The United Nations has called for an independentinvestigation to determine who was responsible for the strike on the centre,which housed some 600 migrants, mainly from African countries.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey — which backs theGNA — called for an end to "unlawful attacks" by Haftar's forcesduring a meeting with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Istanbul onFriday, the Turkish presidency said.

UN agencies and humanitarian groups have repeatedly voicedconcern over the plight of thousands of migrants and refugees held in detentioncentres near combat zones in the capital.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed outrageover the attack and said the United Nations had shared the coordinates of thedetention centre with the warring sides to protect the civilians.

The carnage in Tajoura was "a tragedy that should havenever happened", said Charlie Yaxley, spokesman for the UN's refugeeagency.

Libya has become a major conduit for migrants seeking toreach Europe and remains prey to numerous militias vying for control of thecountry's oil wealth.

Rights groups say migrants face horrifying abuses in Libya,and their plight has worsened since Haftar launched the offensive againstTripoli.

According to the UN, some 5,700 refugees and migrants arebeing held in detention centres in Libya, 3,300 of whom are vulnerable tofighting in and around Tripoli.

An initial lightning assault in early April saw Haftar'sself-styled Libyan National Army steam towards the capital. But they have sincebeen bogged down on its southern outskirts, where frontlines have been frozenfor months.

GNA forces launched a surprise counter-attack late lastmonth, seizing the strategic town of Gharyan, the main supply base for Haftar'soffensive.

After the setback, Haftar's forces threatened to intensifystrikes against their rivals.

Both sides have launched daily air raids throughout thefighting and each lost several planes.

The rival camps have remained convinced that with the helpof their backers, they can win the battle.

The GNA receives support from Turkey and Qatar, and Haftaris backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and according to experts, to somedegree by the United States.

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