Food, water and gas are running out in Misurata as Gaddafi’s troops pummel power stations, water tanks, food storage units and other key infrastructure with rockets, mortars and artillery fire. An untrained and outgunned rebel force has been unable to halt shelling and sniper fire in residential neighborhoods. The city’s only opening to the outside world, the port, is under constant attack, routinely preventing access to it from land or sea.
“We need a force from NATO or the United Nations on the ground now,” committee member Nouri Abdullah Abdulati told reporters Tuesday.
Abdulati said that the Judicial Committee’s signed request had been sent to the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, the de facto capital of the opposition-controlled east, but that no reply had been received. The council, the only link between Misurata and NATO commanders, has said that it does not want foreign troops in Libya.
“We did not accept any foreign soldiers on our land. But that was before we faced the crimes of Gaddafi,” Abdulati said Tuesday. “We are asking on the basis of humanitarian and Islamic principles for someone to come and stop the killing. The whole Arab world is calling for the intervention of the West for the first time in history.”
More than 300 people have been killed in the city of 500,000, said Khaled Abu Falgha, the head of the medical committee based at Hikma Hospital. But he said the number is probably closer to 1,000, because many people bury their own dead.
Abdulati said the committee would want British or French troops to fight alongside rebel fighters in the city, both to protect civilians and to fight off Gaddafi forces. “It’s a situation of life or death,” he said. “If they don’t come, we will die.”
He said that Misurata residents are ready to die for their freedom and that they understand many would.
“Even if 400,000 people die and only 100,000 live, this is a victory,” he said.
As he spoke, explosions from rocket and mortar attacks could be heard, now a normal backdrop here. He said that the United Nations was obligated to send in troops to protect civilians.
“This is an urgent situation,” he said.
The evidence for that was all around him. Apartment buildings pocked with artillery fire stood abandoned in the coastal Jazeera neighborhood, now a ghost town. The lobby of one was spattered with the dried blood of a family of four. Cars were smashed and riddled with bullets.
In Zarooq, deemed one of the safest places in the city, men stood for hours in a bread line. Many said they had been displaced by constant rocket attacks on their homes in other parts of the city.