Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Libya News Update: Government Troops Step Up Offensive Against Western-backed Rebels

Gaddafi troops step up attacks in Libya

Tue May 3, 2011 12:10PM

Forces loyal to Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi have reportedly stepped up their attacks on rebels in the country's Western Mountain region.

At least 10 Grad rockets landed on the town of Zintan late on Monday, Abdulrahman, a spokesman for rebel fighters, told Reuters by telephone.

Regime forces also pounded Berber towns in the Western Mountains, close to the border with Tunisia.

The towns have joined the anti-Gaddafi uprising that erupted two months ago.

Rebels and refugees say people in those towns are on the brink of starvation.

Meanwhile, further east in the besieged coastal town of Misratah, fighting erupted once again on Monday near the city's airport, which remains under the control of Gaddafi forces.

No detail of the attack has been reported yet.

Rebel leaders say NATO has all but forgotten about them and this has emboldened pro-Gaddafi forces to continue their bombardment of cities where the opposition has a presence.

A hospital medic told Reuters that at least 110 civilians and rebels have been killed in Misratah and more than 350 wounded since April 24.

Also on Monday, supporters of Gaddafi gathered in Tripoli for the funeral of the Libyan ruler's 29-year-old son Saif al-Arab.

The government says a NATO air raid on Saturday killed him and three of Gaddafi's young grandchildren.

'NATO attacks Libya indiscriminately'

Mon May 2, 2011 1:23AM

Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the State Duma international committee
A Russian lawmaker has criticized NATO's excessive use of force in Libya one day after Muammar Gaddafi's son and three of his grandchildren died in a NATO raid.

Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the State Duma international committee, told RIA Novosti on Sunday that NATO-led military operation in Libya was focusing on the indiscriminate use of force and was deviating from the conflict resolution within the legal mandate.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1973, adopted on March 17, allowed for NATO forces to stop Gaddafi from using his army and air force against Libyans, calling for democratic changes and an end to his 42 years in power.

On Saturday, Saif al-Arab, the 29-year-old son of Gaddafi and three of Gaddafi's grandsons were killed after NATO fighter jets pounded the Libyan ruler's headquarters in Tripoli.

Meanwhile, Kosachyov expressed concern over the ultimate aims of the NATO-led airstrikes, saying NATO's disproportionate use of force is causing the death of civilians.

"A civil war is raging in Libya and with the interference of a third, external party, the situation is turning into an impasse," the Russian parliamentarian warned, adding that the Western coalition attacked Gaddafi's residence in a frantic struggle to extricate itself from the brewing stalemate in the Libyan mission.

Last week, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he still did not understand the modus operandi behind the NATO operations in Libya, adding that NATO overstepped the remits defined by the UN's mandate when it dropped guided missiles on Gaddafi's government offices in Tripoli.

"What kind of no-fly zone is this if they are striking palaces every night? What do they need to bomb palaces for? To drive out the mice?" Putin asked.

He even went as far as suggesting that Libya's oil resources were a main object for NATO's interest in Libya.

The remarks come as NATO air attacks have also killed civilians in the eastern opposition-held areas of the country, contradicting its main pledge of protecting people.

NATO has come under intense grilling over its failure to protect civilians and avoid human losses at a time when pro-Gaddafi forces have stepped up their attacks against opposition forces in the Libyan cities along the Mediterranean coast, particularly in the besieged western city of Misratah.

UN: Libyan refugee crisis worsening

UN says almost 40,000 people have fled fighting in Western Mountains region into neighbouring Tunisia in past month

Last Modified: 03 May 2011 20:39

The UN has said that almost 40,000 people have fled fighting in Libya's Western Mountains region in the past month.

Thousands of ethnic Berbers from Libya fled into Tunisia after a brief hiatus in their exodus last week because of fighting between Libyan government troops and opposition forces for control of a border crossing point.

"This past weekend, more than 8,000 people, most of them ethnic Berbers, arrived in Dehiba in southern Tunisia. Most are women and children," a UNHCR spokesperson said on Tuesday.

UNHCR staff in Dehiba said the situation of the refugees was being made worse by a violent sandstorm that has battered the area, destroying hundreds of tents and two huge portable warehouses.

UNHCR and its partners said they are struggling to maintain nearby camps.

Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for refugees, told Al Jazeera that the situation is rapidly getting worse for Libyan refugees.

"We have two hot spots - Misurata, where there is no humanitarian access and people are suffering enormously, and the border with Tunisia where there has been a lot of fighting for control of the border," he said.

"The situation is becoming extremely dramatic from a humanitarian point of view. The Tunisians have been extremely generous, sharing everything with Libyan refugees but it is extremely difficult to support this population."

Control of the Dehiba border crossing has changed hands over the past week as the fighting between Libya's rival sides spilled onto Tunisian territory. Currently, the crossing is under opposition control.

Further fighting feared

Residents of Dehiba town told UNHCR staff they were worried about military activity across the border and feared further skirmishes.

Meanwhile, people have resumed fleeing Libya by sea to Italy after a 10-day break due to bad weather.

Some 3,200 people have arrived on the island of Lampedusa over the past five days, most of them originating from sub-Saharan Africa.

This brings the total number of irregular arrivals on Italian territory from Libya since March 26 to more than 8,100. Another 1,132 people have arrived in Malta on boats from Libya since mid-April.

The United Nations, Western powers and some Arab states accuse Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi of ordering his security forces to kill hundreds of civilians who rose up in protest against his four-decade rule.

Libyan offiicals have denied killing civilians, saying security forces were forced to act against armed gangs and al-Qaeda sympathisers who, they say, are trying to seize control of the oil exporting power.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Libyan rebels slam NATO strikes

Mon May 2, 2011 4:36PM

Libyan rebel forces have strongly criticized the Western military alliance for failing to protect civilians in the besieged city of Misratah.

Rebel forces say NATO has all but forgotten about them and this has emboldened pro-Gaddafi forces to continue their bombardment of the city.

This comes after at least four people were reportedly killed and 30 others were wounded in recent attacks.

Medics say overnight clashes killed another six people and wounded dozens more.

The opposition forces use the port-city to bring in supplies.

Pro-regime forces have bombarded Misratah with rockets and shellfire for several days-- disrupting the flow of supplies into the city.

Last month, the head of the opposition's armed forces, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younis, told reporters in Benghazi that NATO's inaction had allowed government troops to advance and kill people in Misratah and other cities.

Younis also threatened to ask the United Nations Security Council to suspend the NATO mission in Libya if the military alliance does not do "its work properly."

The Libyan opposition has repeatedly slammed Western-led forces over the civilian death toll caused by the NATO bombing campaign in the country.

NATO has recently admitted to killing rebel fighters and civilians in an airstrike in eastern Libya but has refused to apologize for the deadly bombardment.

Meanwhile, a NATO airstrike in Tripoli killed Gaddafi's youngest son, Seif al-Arab, along with three of his grandchildren.

The bombing triggered attacks by angry crowds on British and French Embassies -- as well as the US diplomatic mission in the Libyan capital.

Critics, however, accuse the West of hypocrisy over the offensive on Libya, along with its silence towards the brutal crackdowns on similar anti-regime movements elsewhere in the Arab world, such as in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

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