More than 300 men, women and children have been registered dead in the hospitals of the port city about 130 miles east of the capital, Tripoli. “But a greater number died in situ and were buried directly,” said Mohammed, a spokesman for the city council who prefers not to give his family name for safety reasons. He estimated that 1,000 people have died in total since the siege began in late February, but he said some doctors believe the death toll is higher.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Libyan forces Monday to hold their fire. “Considering the magnitude of this crisis, and as this fighting is still continuing, it is absolutely necessary that Libyan authorities stop the fighting, stop killing people,” he told a news conference in Budapest.
He said the United Nations would open a “humanitarian presence” in Tripoli and would try to expand operations with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross and others. But Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian chief, said she had received assurances from government authorities in Tripoli that U.N. officials would be allowed into Misurata itself.
“What I would like to do is get access to Misurata, not just from the sea, but also from the road,” Amos told reporters in Benghazi, according to the Associated Press. “We have very little sense of what is going on across the city.”
Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the government of Moammar Gaddafi, said that under an agreement signed with the United Nations on Sunday, food, aid and medicine would be allowed into Misurata and civilians would be allowed to leave.
International aid agencies would also be given access to Misurata, and authorities would ensure that electricity, water and other services would be restored, he said. “It’s a very positive step.”
The Red Cross said it was also working with the Libyan government “to access people in need in and around Misurata.” But it said Libyan government reports that its team came under rebel fire at the weekend were false, and may have resulted from a “misunderstanding.”
In the city, though, residents who have faced barrages of government shelling for weeks were skeptical of the agreement. “All he [Gaddafi] is sending us is mortar bombs, cluster bombs and tank shells,” said Anas Rifta, a doctor speaking by Skype.
Rifta said baby formula and diapers have run out, as well as drugs to treat chronic life-threatening conditions such as cancer, heart disease and renal problems.
Among the residents, anger was mounting day-by-day with NATO for failing to protect them against Gaddafi’s barrages.