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Warning of escalation in Libya  after attacks near embassies

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The head of Libya’s U.N.-supported government on Friday warned of an escalation in the battle for Tripoli after rockets struck near foreign embassies in the capital, drawing sharp condemnation from the European Union and United Nations.

The Tripoli-based health ministry said an attack late Thursday killed at least three civilians and wounded four others when rockets struck near the perimeter of the Italian ambassador’s residence in the crowded neighborhood of Zawiat al-Dahmani.

Earlier on Thursday, five civilians were reported killed in shelling of two other city neighborhoods.

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj’s office said he spoke with the ambassadors of Italy and Turkey on Friday to ensure they were unscathed by the attack.

The U.N. again raised alarm that ordinary Libyans are bearing the brunt of an increasingly deadly siege by eastern-based forces under the command of Khalifa Haftar, calling the actions “despicable” and “a direct challenge” to peace efforts.

The European Union denounced the assault “in the strongest possible terms,” saying Friday that such indiscriminate strikes “run counter to the respect for human life and international humanitarian law.”

The U.N. Mission in Libya said it was documenting the violations to share with the International Criminal Court.

Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesman for Haftar’s self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, denied they had violated international law, saying the forces have always sought to shield diplomatic sites from the violence of their siege. He accused unspecified “terrorists” of trying to turn international public opinion against Haftar’s campaign.

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