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UN: Shelling Tripoli hospital violation of international law

A view of the hospital room after the rockets fired by Haftar hit the Al-Hadra Hospital in Tripoli, Libya on 5 April 2020 [Amru Salahuddien/Anadolu Agency]
A view of the hospital room after the rockets fired by Haftar hit the Al-Hadra Hospital in Tripoli, Libya on 5 April 2020 [Amru Salahuddien/Anadolu Agency]

The United Nations condemned the heavy shelling of Tripoli’s Al Khadra General Hospital at a time when people need “functioning medical facilities,” saying it was a “clear violation of international law”, Anadolu Agency reports.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a press conference held via video link that the UN was “appalled” to learn of the shelling.

He read out a statement by Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya Yacoub El Hillo.

READ: One year on with his offensive and Haftar is more determined but less successful

“At a moment when people in Libya needed nothing more than a safe home and functioning medical facilities, we received the news of yet another attack on a hospital,” said Laerke.

This is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

At least three civilians were injured Tuesday in the rocket attack by forces loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar, according to the Libyan government.

“The repeated calls by the United Nations and the international community for a cessation of hostilities have only been met with complete disregard and intensified fighting.”

“This is unacceptable at a time when healthcare and health workers are vital in our fight against a global pandemic,” said Laerke quoting El Hillo.

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He noted that the 400-bed Al Khadra hospital was one of health facilities dedicated to treat COVID-19 patients

“A deplorable strike like this, resulting in senseless damage of a most needed medical facility, cannot be justified,” said Laerke.

OCHA said that as of March 2020, 27 health facilities had been damaged to varying degrees due to proximity of clashes, including 14 health facilities that had been closed, and another 23 are at risk of closure due to shifting lines of conflict.

This senseless escalation must stop so that health authorities and aid agencies can respond to COVID-19 and continue reaching people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance

said Laerke.

OCHA said that Libyan health authorities, together with the UN and its humanitarian partners, have been racing against time to contain the spread of the virus.

Bloody Haftar - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Bloody Haftar – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

“If Libya is to have any chance against COVID-19, the ongoing conflict must come to an immediate halt,” he said.

The North African country has so far reported 19 positive cases of the virus, and one death.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

The GNA has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since last April, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.

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