Three children killed in rocket attacks by Haftar militias

Three children killed in rocket attacks by Haftar militias

Three children killed in rocket attacks by Haftar militias

Members of Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, get ready before heading out of Benghazi to reinforce the troops advancing to Tripoli, in Benghazi, Libya April 13, 2019. (REUTERS File Photo)

Militias loyal to East Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar launched rocket attacks to Tripoli on March 18, killing four civilians, including three children, according to Anadolu Agency.

The agency reported on March 19 that three children from the same family were killed in the first attack in southern Tripoli's Ain Zara suburb, according to the Health Ministry under the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).      

One woman was killed later the same day in the capital's Bab Bin Ghashir district when a rocket struck her car, also wounding her daughter and niece, according to a statement by the GNA's Volcano of Rage Operation.     

Heavy fighting between GNA forces and Haftar militias has been ongoing since early March 18.     

The United Nations, along with nine countries, on March 17 called on Libya's warring parties to cease hostilities to allow health authorities to fight against the new coronavirus.

In a joint statement, the ambassadors of Algeria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain and the United states, as well as the European Union delegation to Libya and the governments of Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates called for a "humanitarian truce".

They called on the warring parties to "declare an immediate, humanitarian cessation of hostilities... to allow local authorities to respond to the unprecedented public health challenge posed by COVID-19."            

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya joined the call, urging asking all parties "to join forces immediately before it is too late to face this overwhelming, fast-spreading threat".

War-torn Libya is largely divided between forces backing the Government of National Accord (GNA) and those of eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar, who backs a rival administration in the country's east.               

To date, no cases of COVID-19 have been reported by either administration, but experts fear an outbreak could be catastrophic due to the country's degraded health system.

A fragile truce entered into force on January 12, but there have been repeated violations.

After closing schools last week, the GNA said on March 16 it was closing land borders and halting flights in the west of the country to keep out the virus.

In the east, borders remain open with Egypt, which has reported 166 cases of COVID-19.