UN envoy reports alarming military escalation in Libya

A fighter of Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj, fires a truck-mounted machine gun at the forces of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, at Ain Zara frontline, in the southern suburbs of capital Tripoli. Photo: Amru Salahuddien/dpa (Photo by Amru Salahuddien/picture alliance via Getty Images)
A fighter of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj, fires a truck-mounted machine gun at the forces of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, at Ain Zara frontline, in the southern suburbs of capital Tripoli. Photo: Amru Salahuddien/dpa (Photo by Amru Salahuddien/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The top UN envoy for Libya on Tuesday reported alarming military escalation in the country despite the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“I had hoped to be able to deliver a more positive report to you today. But unfortunately, just when we think that the bottom has been reached in Libya, we somehow manage to achieve new depths of violence, heartlessness, and impunity,” Stephanie Williams, the UN secretary-general’s acting special representative for Libya, told the Security Council.

“Despite our determined efforts and the secretary-general’s plea for an immediate cease-fire to allow Libyans to respond to the common threat of COVID-19, I regret to report that there has been no lull in the fighting between the Government of National Accord (GNA) forces and Gen. (Khalifa) Haftar’s Libyan National Army.”

For nearly 15 months following the launch of Gen. Haftar’s attack on Tripoli in April 2019, armed conflict has been raging in and around some of Libya’s most densely populated areas, she said.

As a result of the intensifying armed hostilities, coupled with the dire socio-economic impact of COVID-19, 1 million people are now in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. This includes 400,000 internally displaced Libyans, along with 654,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. In the past 12 months of warfare in and around Tripoli, 201,000 Libyans were forced to flee their homes, she said.

“As we survey the carnage wrought by almost 15 months of unrelenting violence in Libya, I believe we have reached another turning point in the conflict. From what we are witnessing in terms of the massive influx of weaponry, equipment and mercenaries to the two sides, the only conclusion that we can draw is that this war will intensify, broaden and deepen with devastating consequences for the Libyan people.”

She asked the Security Council to apply pressure on those regional and international actors that are fueling the conflict.

“As foreign intervention increases, the Libyans themselves are getting lost in the mix, their voices crowded out. We must not let Libya slip away. We must enable responsible Libyans to write their own future,” said Williams