Fighting Rages in Misrata despite Withdrawal Pledge

Fighting continued in Misrata on Sunday morning despite claims of the Qaddafi regime that it was withdrawing its troops from the city, which seems to have been a bald-faced lie.

In fact, Saturday saw unusually heavy fighting in the besieged city, with some 25 dead and 100 wounded.

It is possible that the Qaddafi government is attempting to trick the Free Libya forces in the city into over-extending themselves, so that the Qaddafi loyalists can cut them off and destroy them. It is also possible that some uniformed troops are being replaced by tribal irregulars, as a way of confusing American drones The latter fly low and have cameras that can reveal details of targets down to their facial features. Regular Qaddafi brigades in uniforms who are indiscriminately shelling civilian areas would be sitting ducks for such drone strikes, but tribal levies in civvies might be able to confuse the drone operators.

Some reports are saying that what Qaddafi has actually done is to give his regular troops an ultimatum that if they don’t soon take Misrata he will withdraw (and presumably punish them) and send in tribal levies instead.

The danger to Qaddafi’s forces of the US drones was demonstrated on Saturday, when the first successful such strike took out a battery of rocket launchers that Tripoli’s troops had used to fire indiscriminately on the city.

Aljazeera English has daring reporting from the scene that confirms that while the Free Libya forces have made advances against Qaddafi’s forces, the latter have by no means withdrawn from the city, and they still hold the hospital in the west that they have (quite illegally in international law) made their base.

On Saturday, Qaddafi brigades occupied the center of the small town of Yafran in the Berber south, in the Western Mountains Region. The regime has been fiercely attacking Zintan and other towns in that area for week, but Yafran is the first to fall completely. Civilian populations have been blockaded during these attacks, and if the Free Libya forces had not taken a western checkpoint on the border with Tunisia, they say that people in Yafran had been in danger of starving.

Also on Saturday, NATO airstrikes destroyed some 25 military vehicles of the Qaddafi army that were making their way toward Ajdabiya. Ajdabiya is a key petroleum center and also the gateway to the Free Libya positions in the east of the country.

13 Responses

  1. “[Gaddafi’s troops] still hold the hospital in the west [of Misurata] that they have (quite illegally in international law) made their base.”

    Some observers understandably may have missed this, but the New York Times has reported that this “hospital” closed several years ago. Once a hospital always a hospital, I suppose one could argue, but the “rules of war” don’t prohibit use of a building that hasn’t been used as a hospital for several years.

    The “rules of war” do require combatants to wear uniforms, to distinguish themselves from “civilians.” Rebels claim that some Libya troops don’t wear uniforms.

    Ever seen a rebel soldier in a uniform?

    • Now this is really disingenious – that you expect people who want to protect their hard won human rights and defend their homes to go and procure a uniform before they are allowed to do so?

      The hospital is not “closed”. It is up for renovation.

    • It is not just “rebel claims” that the forces of fascism wear civilian clothes. It is all over in videos captured both in Libya and Syria and posted on the net. Do you have a flash player? There are numerous captured PoWs in civilian clothing in such videos. What’s your love of socialist Ghaddafi, in any case?

    • Actually, international law doesn’t require combatants to wear uniforms, only distinguishing insignia.

      At one point during the American War of Independence, the rebels were such a rag-tag, motley band that General Washington ordered everyone to stick a sprig of green in their hats or on their lapels, to serve as that distinguishing insignia.

    • There’s also this, from the Geneva Convention’s definition of who qualifies for POW status:

      6. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

      Yes, UI, professional soldiers in a national military are held to high standards when it comes to uniform and insignia than ordinary people who take up arms against that military upon its approach.

  2. You know, Qaddafi is together with his ‘regime’ or ‘government’ in what way? In what way is the Libyan ‘government’ even necessarily operating?

    To have poor relations with the whole process of being confronted by the people to end the ‘gov’t’.

  3. I’m encouraged by the introduction of drones, but only two? An important advantage of drones is psychologyical, so why does the pentagon announce the limitations? (Well, the answer is obvious, they want to continue the narrative of America as helper-in-chief.) I’d prefer that Gadaffy’s tank drivers and sons started imagining a drone behind every cumulus cloud.

    Good to hear that the Berbers in the west are being resupplied so readily. Evidently the opposition has friends in high places in Tunisia.

    Very sobering story about The Colonel’s deep pockets:
    link to latimes.com
    I do not understand the judgement that Turkey is making, seems very short sighted. Perhaps their vision will improve as the balance tips, ie. if Misrata and the Western access to Tunisia hold.
    This war could drag on a long time.

    • It’s funny watching the sides flip-flop.

      I can remember when it was the Iraq hawks constantly denouncing al Jazeera for being biased because they didn’t put an ideologically-correct line.

  4. ps. I agree with Juan’s earlier commentary that a somewhat delayed crumbling of the central power has important advantages. The way things are playing out, the Transitional Council has the opportunity to build alliance and trust with factions in the West, creating the basis for a credible caretaker government. The rebel military also obviously needs organizational work before it can coordinate effectively with NATO.

    So perhaps a somewhat deliberate pace is good. But on the other hand, it would be very bloody and risky (to the political cohesion and success of the effort) if the war drags on past …. 6 months or so.

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