April 6, 2020 / 8:11 PM / in 2 months

Tripoli hospital under fire as continued shelling defies coronavirus

TUNIS (Reuters) - Projectiles struck the grounds of a hospital in Tripoli on Monday in an area held by the internationally recognized government near a frontline, residents said, even as Libya struggled to prepare for an outbreak of the coronavirus.

The residents said they heard loud blasts and then saw black smoke rising from the area around the hospital during a day of heavy mutual bombardment by Libya’s warring sides.

The local council of Abu Salim district said the hospital had been targeted by rockets fired by the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar, which has been attempting to capture Tripoli for a year.

Abu Salim council posted photographs showing damaged cars in the hospital grounds and said five people had been injured in the attack. A local aid group said six of the hospital’s patients had been evacuated.

Libya’s health infrastructure has been badly reduced by years of chaos and conflict since the 2011 uprising against strongman Muammar Gaddafi, and aid agencies have warned it is poorly prepared to withstand a major coronavirus outbreak.

Libya has confirmed 18 cases of the virus so far, but despite the pleas of the United Nations for a ceasefire, the conflict has escalated sharply over the past two weeks.

Reporting by Angus McDowall in Tunis and Hani Amara in Istanbul; Editing by Will Dunham

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