U.N. condemns Libya shelling deaths after coronavirus truce plea

TUNIS (Reuters) - The United Nations Libya mission condemned a shelling attack on Thursday that it said killed four girls and young women hours after international pleas for a humanitarian pause to help with the fight against the coronavirus.

It said in a tweet that the four, aged 14 to 20, as well as five others including an 11-year-old, were hit during “indiscriminate shelling affecting a civilian neighborhood in Ain Zara, reportedly by LNA forces”.

The eastern-based Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar has been fighting for nearly a year to capture Tripoli, seat of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord.

Libya has not yet confirmed any cases of the coronavirus, but its center for disease control and the World Health Organization have warned that it is not prepared for an outbreak.

On Tuesday, numerous Western and Arab countries including those backing each side in the Libyan conflict, as well as the European Union and the United Nations, urged all parties to stop fighting to focus on responding to the coronavirus.

Diplomacy has made little headway in stopping the fighting or finding a political solution to the turmoil that has followed the 2011 revolution that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

Early this month, the U.N. envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, resigned, citing the damage the stress of the job was doing to his health, as talks in Geneva sputtered and a ceasefire agreed in January faltered.

He had earlier complained about the violation of an arms embargo, with weapons pouring in for both sides. The LNA is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia. The GNA is supported by Turkey.

Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Peter Cooney