- Associated Press - Thursday, April 11, 2019

BERLIN (AP) - The escalation in violence in and around Libya’s capital has resulted in the displacement of more than 8,000 people, the United Nations said Thursday.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the fighting in the past 24 hours was “the heaviest since the outbreak of hostilities.”

The self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, launched a major military offensive earlier this month aimed at capturing Tripoli.

The oil-rich North African country is now governed by rival administrations - a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli and the west and another government supported by Hifter and his supporters in the east. Libya has also become a haven for armed groups, including several from neighboring countries and a major conduit for African migrants hoping to reach Europe.

“An estimated 650 families have requested relocation to safer areas,” Dujarric said. “However, due to access restrictions, hostilities and the indiscriminate use of weapons, evacuation teams have only been able to respond to 15 percent of all requests,” he said.

He said “families stranded inside conflict-affected areas not only fear for their safety, but are also starting to run out of supplies,” adding that “emergency service providers are operating at great personal risk, with three medical staff reportedly killed and four first responders reportedly injured.”

Dujarric said the U.N. continued to call for a humanitarian truce to allow for the provision of emergency services and the voluntary passage of civilians, including the wounded. German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile urged Hifter to end his forces’ push on Tripoli, saying there can be no military solution to the country’s problems.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said that Merkel made the comments in a telephone call to Fayez Sarraj, the leader of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli.

Merkel also called for all parties involved to return to the negotiation table.

Also on Thursday, Tunisian Defense Minister Abdelkrim Zbidi said his country’s armed forces, on land and at sea, were put on alert at the borders it shares with Libya.

The escalation has threatened to plunge the fractured nation deeper into chaos and ignite civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

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