Thousands have fled their homes in the capital since the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar advanced on Tripoli a week ago in the latest conflict since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Armed groups loyal to Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj have so far kept them at bay, with fierce fighting round a disused former airport about seven miles (11km) from the centre. As well as the humanitarian cost, the conflict threatens to disrupt oil supplies, increase migration across the Mediterranean to Europe, scupper a UN peace plan, and allow Islamist militants to exploit the chaos.
So far this week 75 people, mainly fighters but also 17 civilians, have been killed and another 323 have been wounded.
The UN reported 9,500 people have also been forced out of their homes.
Those who stayed try to live a normal life as possible.
Yamim Ahmed, 20, who works in a fast food restaurant, said: ”We have got used to wars. I fear only in God.”
Haftar, 75, a former general in Gaddafi’s army who later joined the revolt against him, moved his troops out of their eastern stronghold to take the oil-rich, desert south earlier this year, before sweeping up to Tripoli at the start of April.
But Serraj’s government has managed to halt the advance, helped by armed groups with machine-guns on pickups and steel containers across the road into Tripoli.
The United Nations, which had hoped to organise a national conference this month bringing the rival eastern and western administrations together to organise an election, has called for a ceasefire.
The United States, G7 bloc and European Union have also urged the LNA to halt its offensive.
World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Dr Syed Jaffar Hussain outbreaks of tuberculosis, measles and diarrhoea due to poor sanitation, especially among those displaced.
He said: “We are keeping a very strong eye on outbreaks – because of displacement into places, and the water sanitation system is compromised. So there is a huge likelihood of outbreaks.”
Five ambulances have been hit trying to extract wounded people from the conflict zone, he added.
The WHO said it had only two weeks of medical supplies available for Tripoli’s hospitals.
Haftar casts himself as a bulwark against Islamist militancy who wants to restore order to Libya.
He has so far resisted UN pressure to accept a power-sharing settlement, using his leverage as an ally of the West in attempts to stem jihadists in North Africa.
Thousands of migrants, mainly Syrians and other Africans, are trapped in squalid detention centres in Tripoli as the fighting approaches.