The chief of staff for the Western joint task force carrying out the strikes confirmed Wednesday that the coalition has targeted pro-Gaddafi forces attacking Misurata with tanks, artillery and rocket launchers. But he declined to provide details of the strikes and said the regime forces are not yet standing down. As a result, he said, coalition strikes “will continue.”
In Tripoli, several loud explosions followed by bursts of antiaircraft fire were heard late Wednesday, the fifth consecutive night of airstrikes against the capital.
In eastern Libya, rebels continued to battle Gaddafi’s forces for control of the strategic city of Ajdabiya, which was captured by the loyalists last week during an offensive against the rebel capital of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city. The initial strikes by Western coalition forces enforcing a U.N. no-fly zone forced Gaddafi’s forces to retreat from Benghazi, but the loyalists have remained entrenched in Ajdabiya about 100 miles to the south.
Fierce fighting was also reported in Zintan, a small town about 100 miles southwest of Tripoli that has been under siege by loyalist forces armed with tanks, artillery and rockets.
The most dire humanitarian situation appeared to be unfolding in Misurata, Libya’s third-largest city about 130 miles east of Tripoli, where coalition warplanes struck Libyan tank positions on the city’s outskirts early Wednesday. The attacks brought a temporary respite from the fierce fighting that had raged for the previous six days as Libyan forces attempted to retake the town from rebels who have controlled it for the past month.
Loyalist tanks resumed their bombardment of the city Wednesday night after a daylong lull. Following the pre-dawn airstrikes, the tanks retreated from the city center, although a sniper continued to terrorize residents, killing at least four, according to a doctor in the Misurata’s hospital.
But after nightfall, the tanks returned and began indiscriminately shelling the city center, including the area around the hospital, said the doctor, who spoke by telephone on condition of anonymity because he fears being targeted by Libyan forces.
“They are shelling everywhere,” he said. One shell landed near the hospital, he said, and two people were hurt.
The doctor said conditions at the hospital were critical, with patients being treated on the floor and all medical supplies and medicines in short supply. The hospital has a generator, but fuel is running low and water supplies have been cut off, he said.