Benghazi Rejects AU Plan to Leave Qaddafi in Power

Reuters reports that, as expected, the Transitional National Council in Benghazi has rejected the African Union proposal for a cease fire.

Since Muammar Qaddafi’s forces are actively attacking civilian cities such as Misrata and Zintan for having dared protest his rule, using truck-mounted Grad rockets fired into civilian areas, the rebels argued, it is meaningless to talk of a “cease-fire.” If Qaddafi wanted to implement a cease-fire he could do it at any time; he hasn’t ceased fire. Pro-Qaddafi forces fired rockets into the center of the southwestern city of Zintan, where civilians live, on Monday.

Moreover, the TNC said, any proposal that leaves the Qaddafi family in control of the country is a non-starter, given that they have proven that they are dedicated to authoritarian methods and are devious and not trustworthy.

Reuters has video:

Human Rights Watch issued a report on Misrata on Monday that said,

‘ (Benghazi) – Attacks by Libyan government forces in the western city of Misrata have endangered civilians and targeted a medical clinic in violation of international law, Human Rights Watch said today. The assessment is based on interviews with two doctors still in Misrata and 17 wounded civilians recently evacuated from the city, which is largely cut off from the outside world by Libyan government forces.

Human Rights Watch called on the Libyan government to allow regular access of humanitarian aid to the city by sea and land, and to permit safe passage for all civilians who wish to leave.

“The Libyan government’s near siege of Misrata has not prevented reports of serious abuses getting out,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “We’ve heard disturbing accounts of shelling and shooting at a clinic and in populated areas, killing civilians where no battle was raging.”

According to Dr. Muhammad el-Fortia, who works at Misrata Hospital, medical facilities have recorded 257 people killed and 949 wounded and hospitalized since February 19, 2011. The wounded include 22 women and eight children, he said.

A second doctor, interviewed separately, said that hospitals in the city had documented about 250 dead over the past month, most of them civilians. He believed the actual number was higher because many people could not reach medical facilities.

“The fighters know how to protect themselves, but the civilians are getting hurt,” he said.

Human Rights Watch could not verify the doctors’ figures or determine to what extent government forces or rebel fighters were responsible for civilian casualties.

On April 3 and 4, Human Rights Watch interviewed 17 civilians wounded by gunfire and tank or artillery rounds in Benghazi after they had been evacuated from Misrata by boat. Some described deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and showed the wounds they had suffered, though their accounts could not be confirmed.

Information on the fighting in Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city with more than 300,000 residents, remains limited because the government has blocked access to the city by land for more than a month and had blocked it by sea until late March, Human Rights Watch said.

Under international humanitarian law applicable in Libya, all sides to the conflict are prohibited from targeting civilians and civilian objects or conducting attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and combatants. Forces must take all feasible precautions to minimize the harm to the civilian population, including avoiding deploying in populated areas and ensuring all targets are military.

Government forces have fired mortar rounds and aimed sniper fire that struck the Misrata Polyclinic, forcing its evacuation, said el-Fortia, who was present on March 23 at one of two attacks on the clinic, an account corroborated by the other doctor and two members of the Misrata city council…’

The shelling of innocent civilians in Misrata intensified on Monday in the wake of the announcement by Qaddafi that he had accepted the AU “cease-fire.”

Meanwhile, the TNC radio station in al-Bayda is broadcasting appeals to pro-Qaddafi soldiers to defect, in the name of human rights, according to this translation and transcription by the USG Open Source Center:

”FYI — Libyan Opposition Radio Appeals to Al-Qadhafi’s Troops
Voice of Free Libya
Monday, April 11, 2011 …
Document Type: OSC Summary ….

Al-Bayda Voice of Free Libya in Arabic between 1900-2000 GMT on 10 April was observed to broadcast an appeal to Al-Qadhafi’s soldiers and talked about the humanitarian situation and freedom of expression.

Between 1900 GMT and 2000 GMT, an unidentified presenter discussed the idea of “freedom advocated by the 17 February revolution.” He criticized the Al-Qadhafi regime for “closing the channels of expression” for the Libyan people. He said the era of “suppression, dictatorship, and slavery” under Al-Qadhafi’s regime should come to an end. He cited examples from the prophet’s tradition where he used to listen to people who had different opinions. He urged the Libyan communities abroad to stage demonstrations, specifically naming Italy and France. He also urged the transitional national council to hold news conferences to “expose the Algerian mercenaries.”

At 2000 GMT … The radio station reported that a Turkish ship arrived today in Benghazi carrying a large number of injured people from Misratah. It said that “the injured people related horrible stories about the acts of killing, kidnapping, and looting by Al-Qadhafi’s rats. It said that they spoke about shortages of medicine and water and power cuts. It also said one of two Qatari ships left Misratah today carrying a number of Egyptian nationals and it is expected to arrive in the Egyptian seaport of Alexandria tomorrow, 11 April. A ship from the International Red Cross arrived in Misratah carrying medicine, medical equipment, and a group of doctors, it said. It said that Turkey also sent a number of ships to evacuate Egyptians in Misratah.

The radio station reported on the arrest of an Iranian Al-Alam TV correspondent by Al-Qadhafi forces “in the context of the policy of muzzling free speech and the media blackout imposed by the security apparatus of the corrupt Al-Qadhafi regime.” It said that Journalists Without Borders had criticized the Libyan authorities’ deportation of 30 foreign correspondents.

In its commentary, the radio station urged the soldiers fighting with Al-Qadhafi’s forces to “come to their senses as the point of no return may have not come yet.” Addressing them, the radio station said: “Can’t you see that Al-Qadhafi and his sons stay in their palaces while they push you in the furnace of this holocaust. Do you want to spoil your life and religion and kill your countrymen, violate their honor, and loot their property while the number of those being killed among you is on the increase? What is the judgement of reason and religion on what you are doing?”

At the end of the newscast, the presenter read an announcement urging the people of Al-Bayda to take part in a mass demonstration on 11 April from outside Bilal Bin Rabah mosque in Al-Bayda city at 1600 local time “in support of the 17 February youth revolution.” He also made some announcements about missing people in the cities of Ras Lanuf, Ajdabiyah, and Al-Burayqah.

Another presenter read an announcement for another demonstration on 12 April, urging the participants to raise slogans supporting the transitional national council and denouncing the Algerian government.

At 2015 GMT, presenter Shaykh Salah presented a one-hour program entitled “Fi Dhilal al-Thawrah al-majidah (‘under the shadows of the glorious revolution’)”. At the outset of the program, he greeted “the heroes who were martyred” in battles against Al-Qadhafi forces. He also greeted the families of those killed, injured, and missing people. He greeted the protesters participating in the sit-ins in various cities.

Presenter Salah interviewed in the studio Hasan Salih, the father of a fighter who was captured by Al-Qadhafi forces. Salih related the story of his son’s captivity. The presenter then discussed various topics, including the participation of women in protests. He urged them to wear modest clothes. He quoted some women protest leaders as complaining about the way some of the protests were being run. He urged them to focus more on the objective of the protests. A woman caller read a poem paying tribute to the rebels.

Presenter Sa’d al-Himri presented “a free hour” program. He read letters from the audience. One letter urged the radio station to hold interviews with the “mercenaries” who had been arrested and quiz them on various issues, including questions about who tasked them to fight. Another letter urged the radio station not to discuss the rebels’ positions and armament in its programs.

Al-Himri then interviewed an officer he identified as Colonel Ahmad on the latest developments on the ground. They discussed the African leaders’ initiative, stressing the national council’s remarks that it would only negotiate on the resignation of Al-Qadhafi and his family. Colonel Ahmad said the rebels in Benghazi were working on a video featuring the prisoners they held. He said this video would be released soon.

An unidentified presenter warned that Al-Libiyah TV carried a story saying that 4,000 people were calling for a conference in Silitin. He said this was a code that this area might be in need of supplies and support in eastern Misratah or that that there were rebel movements in this area. He said this code had been deciphered by rebel intelligence officers….

(Description of Source: Al-Bayda Voice of Free Libya in Arabic — Opposition-run radio, began broadcasting at end of February 2011. ) ‘

5 Responses

  1. Mr. Cole,

    Sincere thanks for sharing your depth of knowledge about and insight into the “Arab Spring.” Reading your article, why Libya 2011 is not like Iraq 2003, really helped my own understanding of events now unfolding in the Middle East. Further, I feel your insight is empowering many of us to see beyond the stale archetypes that have kept people of many rich and beautiful cultures apart from one another for too long. To a peace with dignity for all people.

  2. I think that there is a basic willful misunderstanding here between the concept of a “cease fire” leading to negotiations to end the conflict and a “surrender”.

  3. “257 people killed and 949 wounded and hospitalized since February 19, 2011. The wounded include 22 women and eight children”

    In a city of 300 000 shelled indiscriminately for 2 and a half months, only 30 civilian deaths? Roughly one civilian every three days – that sounds about the everyday and years long level for Gaza.

    And does the term ‘human shield’ only apply when they are blocking our bombs?

    • Estimates on the scene range to 1000 dead. He is reporting bodies delivered to a morgue. Snipers make that difficult. Shelling apt. Buildings leaves bodies in the rubble. All eyewitnesses say the shelling is indiscriminate, which is a war crime and cannot target fighters. Refugees speak of bodies in the street. It isn’t hard to find out what is happening there if you look.

  4. “According to Dr. Muhammad el-Fortia, who works at Misrata Hospital, medical facilities have recorded 257 people killed and 949 wounded and hospitalized since February 19, 2011. The wounded include 22 women and eight children, he said.”

    Actually – Dr. Muhammad el-Fortia reports 257 killed but does not report a single civilian death. Of the wounded and hospitalised, just over 3% were women and children.

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