UNITED NATIONS (AP) — More than 37 attacks have been reported against health workers, health facilities and ambulances in Libya since the self-styled Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Hifter launched an offensive in early April to capture the capital of Tripoli, the United Nations said Thursday.
The U.N. political mission in Libya said in a statement that the "deplorable attacks" impacted at least 19 hospitals and 19 civilian and military ambulances, resulting in 11 deaths and more than 33 injuries, though the actual number may be significantly higher.
Ghassan Salame, the U.N. envoy for Libya, condemned what he called a clear pattern of ruthless attacks.
"Intentionally targeting health workers and health facilities and ambulances is a war crime, and when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian population, may constitute a crime against humanity," he said in a statement.
"We will not stand idly by and watch doctors and paramedics targeted daily while risking their lives to save others," Salame added. "We will spare no efforts to ensure that those responsible will face justice."
A civil war in Libya in 2011 toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. In the chaos that followed, the country was divided, with a U.N.-supported but weak administration in Tripoli overseeing the country's west, and a rival government in the east aligned with Hifter's force. Each is backed by an array of militias and armed groups fighting over resources and territory.
Hifter launched the surprise military offensive to capture Tripoli on April 4 despite commitments to attend a national conference weeks later aimed at forming a united government and moving toward elections in the oil-rich North African country.
The offensive on Tripoli has made little progress amid stiff resistance by the militias supporting the government. The fighting has killed over 1,100 people, mostly combatants, and displaced more than 100,000 civilians.
A two-day cease-fire, proposed by the U.N. during the recent Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, was the first since Hifter's offensive began. But fighting resumed overnight Monday.
The Libyan mission's statement pointed to two precision airstrikes Wednesday targeting a field hospital in the Aziziya neighborhood that reportedly injured at least four medical staff. It also singled out LNA airstrikes in late July that targeted two field hospitals and two ambulances, killing at least four doctors and one paramedic and injuring at least eight other medical personnel.
"Despite repeated wide-ranging condemnation and with blatant disregard to international humanitarian norms and conventions, these merciless attacks have continued," the mission said.