Rebels call for a no-fly zone but do not want other foreign intervention
JIHAN HAFIZ (VOICE-OVER), REPORTER: A week ago, the Libyan rebels took control of this oil city in their drive to reach Tripoli. However, defending Ra’s Lanuf proved more difficult than capturing it. On Thursday, the Gaddafi government launched its most devastating counteroffensive. As the battle intensifies here in Ra’s Lanuf, so do the methods which Gaddafi is now using to push further into rebel territory. They bombed the rebel city of Ra’s Lanuf from air, land, and, according to the rebels, by sea.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): They’re shooting from the sea, hitting the mosque over there.
HAFIZ: The rebels were surrounded and within range of the heavy artillery of Gaddafi’s forces. From fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, mortars, to Russian missile launchers, the government’s forces unleashed a barrage of bombs, missiles, rockets, and bullets. Meanwhile, the snipers moved closer to the city. Without air power, and a limited range of arms, such as rocket launchers and Kalashnikovs, the rebels were severely outgunned.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): We ask Britain to impose a no-fly zone, but not to interfere.
HAFIZ: Even under this level of attack, the rebels reject foreign intervention.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Not even from Britain. And whichever country that supported Gaddafi, God is with us and on our side, and we will be victorious, God willing.
HAFIZ: Most of the rebels are volunteers, not professional fighters. Some don’t even carry a firearm. Defenseless when the bombs fall–it’s difficult to know where they are coming from or where to seek refuge.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Youth of the capital, tonight we will break through.
HAFIZ: But the rebels seem to have one advantage: their conviction that their cause is just. They insist and demonstrate that they are not afraid to die for their country.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Oh, free people, heroes of the nation, God is great!
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Of course the army is more able than us. We are patient people, God willing, and we have the ammunition, our belief in God, and high morale. We will be victorious, and we will witness liberation, and we will see Libya free, God willing.
HAFIZ: Civilian areas were also under attack by Gaddafi’s forces, as residential neighborhoods were bombed. The volunteer doctors in this Ra’s Lanuf hospital evacuated after missiles fell near the building. The mosque close by the hospital also came under attack.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Pro-Gaddafi forces have hit the mosque.
HAFIZ: The sounds of mortars and bombs competed with the call to prayer. Although the streets were empty, their voices could be heard throughout the surrounding area. Forced to leave Ra’s Lanuf, doctors tended to the wounded on the side of the road. The cases are serious. This rebel lost his fingers. This one lost his foot. In Brega’s clinic an hour and a half east of Ra’s Lanuf, doctors counted 35 wounded and 4 dead, including an 18-year-old youth.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): He’s young and he was killed. Civilians are defenseless. Today I am sitting in the midst of war. With airplanes, bombs, he’s using all of the means of war. You’re not a man! Not a man! If you were a man, you would surrender and leave. Don’t hide! God willing, you will die in the battlefield.
HAFIZ: There was little feeling of security in Brega. People ran for cover as a plane flew over the clinic. Later in Ra’s Lanuf, the rebels finally retreated, giving up the city. Jihan Hafiz for The Real News in Ra’s Lanuf, Libya.