Red Cross: Libya fighting has displaced tens of thousands

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fighting in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi and in the west of the country has displaced tens of thousands since the summer and disrupted medical and health services, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday.

Three years after a NATO-backed war ended Muammar Gaddafi's one-man rule in 2011, Libya is struggling with instability as two rival administrations compete for power and warring armed factions skirmish for control of territory across the North African state.

Conflict in Benghazi between Islamist militias and forces who have sided with Libya's internationally-recognized government, headed by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, in the east forced tens of thousands to leave the city and internally displaced more, the Red Cross said.

"Services at the main hospitals have been severely disrupted by the unsettled security conditions, the departure of foreign workers and the acute shortage of medical supplies," said Antoine Grand, head of the Red Cross Libya delegation, who is based in Tunis.

The Red Cross said fighting to the south and west of Tripoli, in the western part of Libya, and in Sabha and Ubari in the south, is also displacing residents.

Conflict has caused frequent fuel, power and water shortages, increased food prices and damaged infrastructure. The Red Cross said deteriorating security also made it difficult for humanitarian organizations to reach victims.

Late October, Hadi Sahraoui, deputy director for Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program, accused both sides of the Libyan conflict of committing war crimes, saying, "in today's Libya, the rule of the gun has taken hold."

"Armed groups and militias are running amok, launching indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas and committing widespread abuses, including war crimes, with complete impunity."

Most foreign governments and international organizations pulled their staff and diplomats out of Libya over the summer when a faction called Libyan Dawn (Fajr Libya) drove rivals out of the capital and set up its own self-declared government in Tripoli.

On Thursday, the European Union barred all Libyan airlines from European airspace for fear violent clashes between opposing factions mean the authorities can no longer guarantee the safety of their aircrafts.

"Recent events in Libya have led to a situation whereby the Civil Aviation Authority is no longer able to fulfil its international obligations with regard to the safety of the Libyan aviation sector," EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said.

"My priority in aviation is passenger safety, which is non-negotiable, and we stand ready to help the Libyan aviation sector as soon as the situation on the ground will allow for this," Bulc said in a statement.

Seven Libyan companies were listed, including Afriqiyah Airways, Air Libya and Libyan Airlines.

The decision followed a regular review of the European Union's air safety list, currently covering 21 countries and more than 300 airlines which is meant to ensure all meet EU standards.

The United Nations plans to hold talks at the beginning of next week to bring the two factions in Libya to the negotiating table.

UN Special Envoy Bernadino Leon said during a visit to Tripoli on Tuesday that talks will be focusing on forming eventually a national unity government but reaching smaller steps such as local ceasefire were key to start a broader dialogue.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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