UN condemns strike cutting off water supply to western, central Libya

The United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya condemned a strike cutting off water supply to western and central Libya in a statement released Monday by the UN Support Mission in Libya.

“The UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Maria Ribeiro, condemns in the strongest terms this act that aims to deprive hundreds of thousands of already embattled Libyans of safe drinking water,” said the statement.

“Such attacks against civilian infrastructure that are essential for the survival of the civilian population may be considered war crimes,” the UN official said.

Ribeiro also reminded all Libyan parties of “their obligations under International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law to ensure the safety of all civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, and public utilities, especially water and electricity.”

“Continuous attacks on the water system further jeopardise levels of health and hygiene among the civilian population, particularly those most vulnerable, including children, and cause further hardship and possible displacement,” the statement said.

Gunmen stormed a water supply station in al-Shwayrif town, some 400 km south of the capital Tripoli, and forced workers to shut down the supply to western and central Libya, the UN-backed government’s Interior Ministry said.

The ministry accused the rival east-based army of the cutting of the supply, saying that the gunmen are “affiliated to the army” which has been fighting with the government over control of Tripoli since early April.

Libya has been suffering escalating violence and political instability ever since the fall of late leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.