Libya’s ground fighting leads to surge in civilian casualties: UN

Between April and June, more than 100 civilians were killed and over 250 were injured due to an escalation in ground fighting and by explosive remnants and airstrikes.

al-monitor A picture shows a residential building, damaged during the 14 months of fighting between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord and strongman Khalifa Hifter's Libyan National Army, in a southern neighborhood in the capital Tripoli on July 9, 2020. Photo by MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images.

Jul 30, 2020

An escalation in hostilities caused 100 civilian casualties in Libya between April and June, an increase of 65% compared to the first three months of the year, the United Nations said in its latest casualty report for the war-torn country.

Between April 1 and June 30, 2020, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented 106 deaths and 252 injuries among civilians. Ground fighting was the leading cause of civilian casualties, along with explosive remnants of war and airstrikes.

Forces affiliated with Khalifa Hifter’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) were responsible for a majority of the civilian deaths, UNSMIL said. The UN mission also documented nine incidents impacting schools and another nine attacks on health facilities, seven of which were attributed to the LNA.

For the past six years, the oil-rich country has been embroiled in conflict between two rival administrations and their array of foreign backers, which have flooded the country with illegal arms.

Hifter’s eastern-based army recently suffered a massive setback in Tripoli at the hands of the Turkey-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which in early June regained full control of the capital city after more than a year of fighting.

GNA forces now appear ready to enter the oil-rich coastal city of Sirte, which has been under the control of Hifter’s army since January. Egypt, one of Hifter’s main patrons, has referred to Sirte as a red line and indicated it may intervene with ground troops.

Russia, one of the war’s main power brokers, may be gearing up to help Hifter’s forces defend the city. The US military recently published aerial surveillance images showing Russian armored vehicles near Sirte and Russian military planes and anti-aircraft vehicles at eastern Libya’s al-Khadim air base.