Libyan National Army forces of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar head out of Benghazi to support fighters advancing on Tripoli. Picture: Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Johannesburg – The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that half a million Libyan children face an immediate threat as fighting in the Libyan capital Tripoli between government forces and those loyal to renegade General Khalifa Hafter continues to rage.

Hafter’s men from the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) advanced on the capital Tripoli in the west several days ago after travelling from eastern Libya to oust what they described as terrorists.

The LNA supports the rival House of Representatives (HoR) government based in Tobruk which opposes the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez Saraj in Tripoli.

During the last few days of bloody fighting, OCHA reported that in addition to the 500 000 children under threat, 4 500 people had been forced to flee their homes while others remain trapped in their houses.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that 47 people, including nine civilians, had been killed by Tuesday alone with the death toll certain to have risen since then.

The UN said in a report that the humanitarian community is extremely alarmed by reports that emergency service providers are often unable to reach civilians in need, and in some cases have been targeted by parties to the conflict.

Al-Jazeera reported that as fighting continued on Wednesday that the LNA had taken up positions some 11km south of the centre of the capital, which is protected by an array of militias and other groups loyal to the GNA. Battle-hardened forces from the city of Misrata have also arrived in Tripoli to help in the fighting against the LNA.

Meanwhile, the situation south of Tripoli remains very tense as the sides battle to take control of the city's disused international airport which has been abandoned since 2014 after it was heavily damaged during fighting between rival militias.

Only days ago Libya’s only operational airport Mitiga was forced to close with passengers evacuated after it was hit by LNA air strikes as the North African country inches closer to all-out civil war. No injuries were reported.

African News Agency (ANA)