BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — At least six civilians were killed in heavy shelling on a residential neighborhood in Libya’s capital, a health official said Wednesday, the latest escalation in fighting between rival militias over control of Tripoli.
The overnight rocket shelling on the high-density residential district of Abu Slim, less than 7 kilometers (4.5 miles), from the city center, prompted condemnation “in the strongest terms” from the U.N. envoy for Libya.
“The use of indiscriminate, explosive weapons in civilian areas constitutes a war crime,” said Ghassan Salame without naming the shelling source.
Fighting erupted April 5 pitting the Libyan National Army, led by commander Khalifa Hifter and aligned with a rival government in the east, against militias affiliated with Tripoli’s U.N.-supported government.
Both sides blamed the other for the shelling, which wounded at least 26 people, according to Malek Merset, a spokesman for the health ministry in Tripoli.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday in New York that “in the past 24 hours we’ve also seen the highest single-day increase in displacement, with more than 4,500 people displaced, and that’s according to the International Organization for Migration.”
Dujarric said the total number of people forced from their homes was up to 25,000.
“Civilians trapped in conflict areas are reportedly running low on basic food items as well as fuel, and experiencing prolonged electricity and water cuts,” he said.
Dujarric also said that on Tuesday the U.N. refugee agency and its partners relocated 150 refugees who were detained in the Abu Selim detention center — close to the ongoing clashes — to a U.N. facility in central Tripoli.
The clashes threaten to push the country into a civil war like the 2011 one that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations in New York contributed.