Death toll in Libya crisis rises as battle for Tripoli intensifies

There has been heavy fighting near Tripoli since the assault began

Thousands of civilians have been displaced from the Libyan capital Tripoli, while dozens have been killed due to ongoing clashes and Libyan National Army forces', led by Khalifa Haftar, continued of their attack on the capital despite United Nations calls for de-escalation.

The Libyan National Army carried out air strikes on southern Tripoli, while it seeks to advance towards the centre of the city from the abandoned airport.

The LNA said on Monday that 19 of its soldiers had been killed in recent days.

"Refugees told UNHCR that they were frightened and anxious about their safety, given ongoing fighting in the vicinity, and that they were left with minimal supplies", the statement said, adding the agency was working to ensure other detained migrants and refugees were not in harm's way.

According to local media reports, GNA forces are also targeting Haftar's supply lines linking Tripoli to the city of Ghariyan (located roughly 100 kilometers south of the capital), which pro-Haftar forces are reportedly using as a forward base.

Heavy fighting has taken place near Tripoli since the forces of military general Haftar, who took over the south earlier this year, launched an assault on Thursday aimed at seizing the capital from the Tripoli-based internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

On Sunday evening, LNA forces had moved up from the airport, coming as close as 11km from the city centre before retreating, residents said.

The UN has said that 2,800 people have fled from the fighting near Libya's capital, with the Ministry of Public Health already revealing that at least 25 people had been killed and 80 wounded.

Also Monday, U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame said he met with Fayez Sarraj, head of the government in Tripoli, to discuss how the U.N. mission "can assist at this critical and hard juncture".

The violence has cast doubt on the United Nations plan to hold a conference from 14 to 16 April to arrange for the elections, as a way out of the ongoing chaos since Gaddafi's ousting under Western support eight years ago.

The United Nations, United States, European Union and G7 bloc have appealed for a ceasefire, a return to a U.N. peace plan, and a halt to Haftar's push. Its elite Saiqa (Lightning) force, numbers some 3,500, while Haftar's sons also have well-equipped troops, LNA sources say.

Since NATO-backed rebels ousted Gaddafi, Libya has been a transit point for hundreds of thousands of migrants trekking across the Sahara in hope of reaching Europe across the sea.

Eight years later, Libya is still living with the instability and violence that resulted from US -backed regime change made possible by Western intervention.

France established close relations with Haftar under the Socialist government of former President Francois Hollande and his defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Forces with the Tripoli government have announced an operation to defend the capital called "Volcano of Anger".

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