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Government in Libya's capital condemns deadly air strikes

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya’s internationally recognized government on Monday condemned air strikes in the capital Tripoli and the southern desert which it said had caused civilian casualties, most of them women and children.

The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) blamed its eastern-based rivals for the strikes. It did not say how many people had been killed and injured, but military forces aligned with the GNA said 14 people had died.

The eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) denied carrying out the strikes, blaming instead “indiscriminate bombardment” by their opponents.

The strikes mark the latest escalation in an air campaign as the LNA presses its military offensive on the outskirts of Tripoli and seeks to retain control over desert areas in the south.

Libya has been divided since 2014 between shifting rival political and military factions based in Tripoli and the east. The LNA has been waging a military campaign since early April to try to take control of Tripoli.

The strikes hit Al-Sawani, south-west of central Tripoli on Sunday, and Umm al-Aranib town, about 765km (475 miles) away, late last week.

Emergency workers confirmed that three children had been killed and a fourth child injured in the strike in Al-Sawani, which they said damaged some houses and vehicles.

In Umm al-Aranib locals protested against the strikes on Monday, burning tires in the street and closing some schools and roads, residents said.

After the LNA’s offensive in April quickly stalled, both sides became increasingly dependent on air strikes carried out with foreign support by fighter jets and drones.

The United Nations Libya mission, UNSMIL, said in a statement sent to Reuters that it was “following with great concern the intensification of air strikes in civilian areas in the past few days”.

“UNSMIL stresses that indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure constitute a grave violation to international humanitarian and human rights,” it said.

Umm al-Aranib is about 275km directly east of El Feel oilfield, where GNA-aligned forces briefly took control last week before being beaten back by air strikes.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Ayman al-Warfalli; Additional reporting and writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien