Libya: Pitched battle on in western city of Misrata, 17 killed

The fear of a humanitarian disaster loomed large on Libya as a fierce battle raged on in Misrata.

Updated: Apr 18, 2011, 19:39 PM IST

Tripoli: Pro-government troops intensified
the shelling in the rebel-held city of Misrata in western
Libya on Sunday as fierce battle raged on the eastern frontline of
Ajdabiyah amid fears of a looming humanitarian disaster.

Pitched battle was on for control of Libya`s
third-largest city Misrata, which came under heavy artillery
attack from pro-government troops, after 17 people were
reported to have been killed yesterday.

Aid workers and Misrata residents said the situation
there is "dire" amid severe shortages of food, power, water
and medicine, as the Libyan regime intensified their shelling
of the city, BBC reported.

Britain`s Department for International Development
said approximately 300 civilians had been killed and a further
1,000 injured since late February in Misrata, which has been
under siege of the pro-government troops for seven weeks.

However, media reports said 1,000 people are estimated
to have been died in the fighting in Misrata and "80 per cent
of the deaths are civilians".

There was no let up in the offensive on the rebels`
eastern frontline outpost of Ajdabiyah, which is being used by
the anti-Gaddafi forces as a staging post to regain the
strategic oil port of Brega, 80-km west of Ajdabiya.

Rebels fought off an attack by government troops in
Ajdabiya yesterday, a day after retreating from the eastern
frontline of Brega.

Gaddafi`s forces advanced on Ajdabiya, the gateway to
the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, under a heavy artillery
barrage in the morning and fought at close range with rebels
on the town’s southern outskirts before a counterattack forced
them back, Al Jazeera quoted witnesses as saying.

The rebels have blamed the western alliance for
failing to give them enough support.

"Where are the NATO forces?" asked Absalam Hamid, who
identified himself as a rebel captain. "We don?t know why they
didn’t bomb them," he was quoted as saying by the New York

Amid the stalemate in the civil war, British Prime
Minister David Cameron has said the terms of the UN resolution
on Libya are a "restriction" on NATO which is enforcing a
no-fly zone in a bid to protect civilians from Libyan forces.

"We`re not occupying, we`re not invading, that`s not
what we`re about. And that is obviously a restriction on us,
but I think it is the right restriction," he said while
speaking on Sky News yesterday.

"It`s because we`ve said we`re not going to invade,
we`re not going to occupy, this is more difficult in many
ways, because we can`t fully determine the outcome with what
we have available," Cameron underlined.

The failure of the rebels to hold their ground in the
battle with the government troops, has forced the Obama
administration to look for a country, most likely in Africa,
that might be willing to provide shelter to Gaddafi.

Even as the embattled leader has refused to quit, the
New York Times said the Obama administration has begun an
intense search for a country that would accept Gaddafi.

"The move by the United States to find a haven for
Colonel Gaddafi may help explain how the White House is trying
to enforce President Obama’s declaration that the Libyan
leader must leave the country but without violating Mr Obama’s
refusal to put troops on the ground," the Time said.