A child holding his doll in one of Libya’s migrant camps. Courtesy of United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

UN calls for ceasefire as Libyan death toll reaches 1,000

The UN Security Council has issued a statement calling for a ceasefire in Libya after a recent attack on a migrant center near Tripoli brought the death toll to over 1,000 since April 2019. 

An air raid on a migrant detention center—carried out by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army—resulted in the death of at least 53 people while wounding over 130 more on July 2. At least six of the victims were children, according to Al Jazeera

“Migrants who survived the attack are in a state of panic, worried about what will happen to them next following the destruction of the detention center,” Mahmoud Abdelwahed told Al Jazeera. The detention center was home to over 600 migrants, many of whom remained in the destroyed center until the day after the strikes when some were transported to medical centers. 

Ghassan Salamé is the head of the UN’s operations in Libya and said the attack on the detention center “clearly could constitute a war crime.” Haftar has accused Salamé of being biased and claims he wants a “partition of Libya.” 

According to Al Jazeera, Libya has been a violent conflict zone since 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by NATO-backed forces. The Government of National Accord replaced Gaddafi’s regime, and the UN has since recognized it as the legitimate ruling power of Libya.

Haftar and the LNA launched an offensive against the GNA in April in an attempt to take control of Tripoli. The LNA has yet to take control of the capital, and the number of people killed, wounded and displaced continues to grow as the conflict continues. 

“The members of the Security Council stressed the need for all parties to urgently de-escalate the situation and to commit to a ceasefire,” the statement released by the UN Security Council on July 5 said. “Lasting peace and stability in Libya will come only through a political escalation.”

“The members of the Security Council expressed deep concern over the worsening humanitarian situation in Libya and called on the parties to allow full access for humanitarian agencies,” the statement continued. “The members remain concerned about the conditions in the detention centers which are the responsibility of the Libyan Government.”

In an interview with French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, Haftar said his forces were not considering a ceasefire as a viable option. “Of course, the political situation is still the goal,” Haftar told Le Journal de Dimanche. “But to get back to politics, we must first finish with militias.”

Haftar also claimed the detention center was not the target for the air raid, and his forces were actually targeting a nearby military site. Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are all suspected allies of Haftar and the LNA.