Refugees Tell Of Violence In Rebel-Held Libyan City

An injured man with a leg cast in the colors of the Libyan rebel flag sits on the deck of a Turkish ship arriving from Misurata to the port of Benghazi to evacuate the wounded on Sunday. i i

An injured man with a leg cast in the colors of the Libyan rebel flag sits on the deck of a Turkish ship arriving from Misurata to the port of Benghazi to evacuate the wounded on Sunday. Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
An injured man with a leg cast in the colors of the Libyan rebel flag sits on the deck of a Turkish ship arriving from Misurata to the port of Benghazi to evacuate the wounded on Sunday.

An injured man with a leg cast in the colors of the Libyan rebel flag sits on the deck of a Turkish ship arriving from Misurata to the port of Benghazi to evacuate the wounded on Sunday.

Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

In eastern Libya, skirmishes continue between forces opposed to leader Moammar Gadhafi and loyalist troops.

Though the rebels claim progress in Monday's fighting, the two sides have fought to a standstill on a stretch of desert road along the Mediterranean coast near the oil port of Brega.

Meanwhile, the rebels' last enclave in the western part of the country, Misurata, remains under attack from Gadhafi forces. Wounded civilians and rebel officials who have fled the city by boat say conditions on the ground are atrocious.

'Your President Is Supposed To Protect You'

As a Turkish cruise ship turned makeshift floating hospital pulled into Benghazi's port Sunday, some 250 men, women and children from Misurata — some with their arms wrapped in casts — waved from the deck and shouted, "God is great."

Wounded men from Misurata arrive in Benghazi on a Turkish cruise ship turned into floating hospital.

Wounded men from Misurata arrive in Benghazi on a Turkish cruise ship turned into floating hospital. Eric Westervelt/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Eric Westervelt/NPR

On the dock, rebel youth from Benghazi welcomed them, chanting, "The blood of Misurata's martyrs will not be wasted," as they tossed flowers and waved Turkish and Libyan rebel flags.

Some of the wounded aboard the ship, the Ankara, had been hit by gunfire, others by shrapnel. A few were missing limbs or were disfigured by burns. Patients lay on thin mattresses on the cabin floors, wrapped in bandages. Others were in wheelchairs.

Salah Omar Habary, 26, an unemployed college student, had bandages up his left leg. Gadhafi forces, he said, had opened fire on his car near his home in Misurata.

When Gadhafi's forces came into town, they shot indiscriminately, he said.

"It's a bit sad to leave your country," he added. "Your president is supposed to protect you. Instead, he's attacking you."

A City Under Siege

Journalists have not had unguarded access to Misurata. Passengers on the Turkish aid ship provided some of the latest firsthand accounts of the ongoing violence there.

While rebels and their sympathizers say they control much of Misurata, including its port, all of the witnesses describe a city under sustained, brutal attack by Gadhafi forces using mortar and tank fire, as well as snipers on rooftops along a main avenue. Even hospitals, they said, have been targeted.

Mohammed Ali Bisheikh, 14, lay on the floor of a cabin with a dozen other patients from Misurata. He suffered wounds to his chest and neck. One eye was swollen shut. Next to him was his 12-year-old brother, who had large scabs from burns all over his face and bandages on his head and legs.

Libyans in Benghazi hold up flowers to welcome the Turkish ship evacuating the wounded from Misurata. i i

Libyans in Benghazi hold up flowers to welcome the Turkish ship evacuating the wounded from Misurata. Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
Libyans in Benghazi hold up flowers to welcome the Turkish ship evacuating the wounded from Misurata.

Libyans in Benghazi hold up flowers to welcome the Turkish ship evacuating the wounded from Misurata.

Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

Mohammed Ali said he and his brother were passing out bottled water to rebel fighters when an artillery or tank round landed nearby and shrapnel nearly ripped them apart.

"Both my legs and my arms and my chest have big shrapnel wounds from the bomb attack," he said. "Hopefully, when I go back home — whenever that is — we'll get rid of Gadhafi and find another leader."

Turkish Aid

The Turkish consul general in Benghazi, Ali Davutoglu, said the Ankara was picking up another 100 wounded from Benghazi before sailing on to a city in western Turkey, where local hospitals were waiting to care for them. Urgent cases were to be flown to Turkey.

Davutoglu said the Turkish government paid for the medical ship with help from the Turkish Red Crescent and another Islamic aid group that provided some staff and medical supplies. The Turkish Foreign Ministry says Turkish fighter planes, special forces and a frigate provided protection when the boat pulled into Misurata's besieged port.

Dr. Souliman Fourtia, who is with the rebels' provisional government, fled Misurata for Benghazi on another ship a few days ago. "I've lost, personally, my brother. He's been shot just on the street with the snipers," he said.

Fourtia said Misurata remains almost entirely surrounded, with Gadhafi's forces controlling the east and west gates to the city.

"There's no water. There's no electricity. There's no telecommunication," Fourtia said. "We are here to raise our voice, to get humanitarian access to Misurata, and then we go back to family. And I think we've got a lot to do back home in Misurata."

Requests For Access

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders evacuated 70 wounded civilians from Misurata by sea over the weekend. The group says the remaining health clinics there are overflowing with severely injured patients and are running desperately short of medical supplies.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and many aid groups have repeatedly appealed to the Gadhafi regime to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Misurata — and all conflict zones in Libya — to deliver much needed medical and food supplies.

An ICRC official says negotiations with the regime in Tripoli are ongoing but so far, their requests for access have fallen on deaf ears.

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