Gaddafi forces squeeze rebel-held Misrata

Residents of the rebel-held Libyan city of Misrata said government shells and snipers killed nine people on Saturday and the hospital could not operate on the wounded because it had no anaesthetic.

Misrata, about 200km east of Tripoli, is the last big rebel stronghold in the west of the country and people living there say forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are still trying to retake the city despite a ceasefire.

Residents said there was some shelling in the city on Saturday morning — though not as heavy as the previous day — and one reported that seven people were killed.

They said the encircled city was quiet by early evening but faced a humanitarian crisis because water supplies were cut for a third day.

“The situation is calm for the moment. Tanks and armoured vehicles are still surrounding the city but they have stopped their attacks for a couple of hours now. The city is still under siege, even from the sea,” resident Mohammed said by phone.

He said residents had welcomed news of the first French airstrikes in Libya to enforce a UN resolution.

“People are now optimistic and relieved. We are very grateful both to France and the EU for stepping in. Gaddafi’s forces have carried out some barbaric acts here”.

Snipers on rooftops
Another resident, called Saadoun, said earlier pro-Gaddafi snipers shot dead two people from rooftops.

“I am telling you, we are scared and we are alone. We have two people dead this morning, not because of the shelling but because there are snipers on some houses and they are shooting people, they are shooting whoever they see,” he said.

“This morning there was some shelling from two tanks and then it stopped but the destruction from yesterday’s bombardment is huge. Destruction everywhere. Mosques and houses; nothing was spared.

“We are all scared here, the people of Misrata are scared. We feel a humanitarian crisis is coming … [there has been] no water for more than three days and no electricity.”

Reports from Misrata could not be verified independently because authorities in Tripoli have prevented journalists from reaching the city.

Libyan government officials deny attacking rebels and say they are observing a ceasefire.

Mohammed said four or five artillery shells had hit the city early on Saturday morning. Gaddafi’s forces were on the outskirts of the city, he said.

One man, who spoke to Reuters via Skype because telephone lines were not working properly, said seven people killed in Saturday’s shelling had been brought to Misrata’s hospital.

“We cannot tolerate [it] any more. Our hospital is in severe shortage: no medicine, no anasthesia drug, the hospital is over-crowded, we cannot operate any more,” he said in English.

People in Misrata, Libya’s third-biggest city, joined in a revolt against Gaddafi’s rule over a month ago.

But the city is cut off from the main anti-Gaddafi stronghold in the east of Libya and since the revolt government forces have encircled the city. In the past few days they have been using artillery and tanks to try to retake it.

Saadoun described a city that has been devastated by the shelling and where people are struggling to stay alive.

“We have only one plant working and it doesn’t feed the whole city so a big part of the city is without electricity. All communications are down,” he said. – Reuters

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