A group of 6 medical workers held captive by a Libyan militia were released (Oct 23) after 12 days in captivity.
The workers, including doctors, surgeons, nurses and technicians, were a part of a humanitarian convoy making its way through the Nafussa mountains. Family members of the captured individuals believe they were taken by militants from Zintan, who sought to leverage them in order to free a detained militant (from Zintan) being held in Tripoli, who was receiving treatment at a local hospital. The convoy was stopped on October 11, with armed men taking specifically only the medical staff from the Tripoli area hospitals and clinics.
The political and military authorities in Zintan, a city of about 50,000 in northwest Libya, are divided between the GNA and LNA sides of the conflict. One of the LNA’s senior commanders who controls the western forces is from Zintan, and most of the local militias seem to be pro-LNA.
UNSMIL, the UN Support Mission in Libya, reported Friday (10-25) that it has documented at least 58 attacks on health worker and medical facilities throughout Libya this year. The UN representative strongly condemned all attacks on civilian targets, including and especially medical facilities and personnel. The latest such attack took place this past Thursday (10-25), in which 2 airstrikes hit a field hospital and an ambulance near Tripoli, killing a paramedic.
The Tripoli government said it had given all medical facility coordinates to UNSMIL representatives to ensure those would be avoided in the fighting. It blamed UNSMIL for passing on that information to LNA forces who were purposefully targeting those areas. The UN denied such allegations.
Over 40 asylum seekers protested last week at a UN refugee facility in Tripoli, claiming the UN rejected their refugee relocation requests, including women and children, who were being held in Libyan refugee detention centres. Those rejected were being hosted at UN transit centres (Gathering and Departure Facility – GDF) in Tripoli, and said they were asked to leave. Al Jazeera reports that this was the first time the UNHCR rejected relocation requests, and that at least 87 such requests were rejected last week.
The UNHCR responded, that there “are simply not enough evacuation and resettlement places” in third counties. It also claimed that it had not forced anyone to leave the GDF. The UN established the facility to house “particularly at risk” individuals, who are subject to a variety of human rights abuses. The UNHCR says there are over 5000 refugees being held in official facilities in Libya. Those asked to leave, it noted, were done so in order to make room for more vulnerable refugees from other facilities. The UN has managed so far to evacuate or resettle 1663 refugees from Libya this year, only a small percent of those trapped in the country.
Human Rights group Amnesty International reports it has evidence that war crimes are being committed by both sides in the fighting in Tripoli. A report released Tuesday, the same day an errant rocket killed two children in their home, claims fighters are launching indiscriminate attacks with a “range of inaccurate explosive weapons” in urban areas, injuring and killing civilians. The report notes the use of “unguided rockets … modern drone launched guided missiles… that could amount to war crimes.”
Amnesty has been conducting its investigating since fighting broke out in Tripoli in April, visiting 33 sites where air and ground attacks took place. The report claims over 100 civilians killed or wounded and 100,000 displaced by the recent fighting, including the most lethal attack which hit a field hospital in July, killing 5 medical personnel and injuring more. According to Amnesty, neither side of the conflict agreed to respond to questions regarding these findings.
Amnesty called on the international community to uphold the UN arms embargo, which it claims Turkey, the UAE, Jordan and others are violating. UNICEF, the UN agency for children’s welfare, called on all sides “to refrain from attacks on civilian infrastructure, including … homes, schools, hospitals and medical facilities.”
The continuing conflict in Libya is impacting the health & welfare of the average Libyan in a way that many people aren't aware of outside of the capital city.
Since the offensive by LNA forces at the beginning of April, Tripoli's sanitation services have been cut-off from the region's main landfill, some 50 km. outside of the city. This has led local authorities to dump the city's rubbish at a makeshift site on the outskirts of the city still under GNA control.
The haphazard nature of the garbage dumping has created a sanitation crisis for nearby residents, who worry about a negative impact on their health. Some locals have described the growing garbage piles as being "higher than passing cars".
While collection & disposal have continued unabated in Tripoli's wealthier neighbourhoods, they have become increasingly less frequent in other parts of the city. This has resulted in many residents dumping their household waste on the streets. The problem has progressed to the point that some people have taken matters into their own hands, standing guard over their homes to ensure no one illegally dumps trash in their vicinity.
While life has continued with less disruption during the current fighting than one might expect in certain areas, the growing garbage crisis is beginning to take its toll. Civilian infrastructure in the capital is growing increasingly strained, and it is only a matter of time before a breakdown.