FILE - Smoke rises during a fight between members of the Libyan internationally recognized government forces and Eastern forces in Ain Zara, Tripoli, Libya, May 5, 2019.
FILE - Smoke rises during a fight between members of the Libyan internationally recognized government forces and Eastern forces in Ain Zara, Tripoli, Libya, May 5, 2019.

The UN envoy for Libya on Monday called for rejection of foreign involvement, including mercenaries and arms shipment, in the Libyan conflict.

Ghassan Salame, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), pointed out a growing involvement of mercenaries and fighters from foreign private military companies in the escalated fighting since the spring.

“The insertion of these experienced fighters has naturally led to intensification in the violence,” he told the Security Council.

Moreover, he observed that the use of air power and precision technology has become a dominant feature of the ongoing conflict.

The UNSMIL estimates the total number of drone strikes in support of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) forces is well above 800, while the total number of drone strikes in support of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) is around 240.

“It is our judgement that the drone infrastructure and operations are facilitated by external parties to the conflict,” he added.

In early April, the LNA launched an operation in an attempt to take over Tripoli. The GNA has since been fighting the eastern-based fighters around the Libyan capital.

Libya has been struggling to make a democratic transition amid insecurity and chaos since the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The instability resulted in a divided country, with the GNA overseeing the west and a rival government in the east. Each is backed by an array of armed groups fighting over resources and territories.

Salame said the current violence is facilitated by Libya’s plethora of Gaddafi-era arms as well as by continued shipments of war materiel brought into the country in breach of the UN-imposed arms embargo.

“External investment in the conflict risks surpassing the amount of national involvement, taking control of Libya’s future away from the Libyans and putting it in the hands of foreign parties,” he warned.

“It is in the interests of all Libyans to reject outside interference in their country’s affairs,” said the UN envoy. “I look to them for their support in calling for external actors to adhere to the arms embargo and commit tangibly to ending the conflict on the ground.”

In Tripoli, the effects of the renewed conflict continue to impact the civilian population, he said.

More than 200 civilians have been killed and more than 128,000 people have fled their homes since the conflict began on April 4. Over 135,000 civilians remain in frontline areas, and an additional 270,000 people live in areas directly affected by conflict, according to Salame. Enditem

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