At least five people have been killed and 30 others wounded in Benghazi when rockets hit protesters who gathered in Libya’s second largest city to demonstrate against a United Nations-proposed peace deal, medics said.
Hundreds of people had gathered in the centre of the eastern city on Friday to protest against a power-sharing agreement proposed by UN envoy Bernardino Leon.
A volley of shells hit the rally, “killing at least five people and wounding 30 others”, a medic said.
“The exact toll could be much higher as medics are still trying to collect human remains from the site.”
The Benghazi Medical Center said on its official Facebook page that it had received two bodies and treated 30 wounded.
Another hospital in the city, al-Jalaa, also said on Facebook that it had received three bodies and had treated 10 wounded.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Libya descended into chaos after the October 2011 ouster and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, with two governments vying for power and armed groups battling for control of its vast energy resources.
A militia alliance, including Islamist groups, overran Tripoli in August 2014, establishing a rival government and a parliament that forced the internationally recognised administration to flee to the country’s remote east.
On October 8, after almost a year of arduous negotiations, Leon put forward a list of names to head a power-sharing government, but both sides rejected the proposed appointments.
Friday’s shelling came two days after Leon insisted he would press on with efforts to clinch a political deal.
“The process goes on. There is no chance for small groups or personalities to hijack this process,” Leon said.
“The political solution is the only real alternative,” he said, adding that further meetings would be held in the coming days.
On Monday, Western and Arab states urged rival sides to accept the UN plan “immediately”.
A joint statement was issued by the foreign ministers of Algeria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Qatar, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, as well as the EU foreign policy chief.
It called on “all parties in the Libyan political dialogue to immediately adopt the political agreement negotiated” by Leon.
A unity government in Libya is seen as the best chance to tackle the rise there of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group and migrant-smuggling from Libya across the Mediterranean to Europe.
The UN Security Council has threatened to impose sanctions on those who block a peace deal or undermine any political transition in Libya.