Friday, April 8, 2011

Libya, friendly fire and the front property line

Benghazi - rebels and civilians fleeing Ashdabia. In another day of war, the loyalist forces of Colonel Gaddafi gain ground. The situation at 8 am, it is relatively quiet at the front, which for over a week is 40 kilometers from Brega, halfway through the ghost town of Ashdabia. The rebels appear to be the most organized of the past days, although the coordination continues to take water from all sides.

The first point on which they are divided is whether journalists should participate in transactions or not. Vince the front of the press is not, and explained that for reasons of military strategy can not remain at the forefront. "We have weapons that do not want to show on television," says a rebel.

"We know that the media are fundamental for us - he continues - but at this moment, at least until we are in Brega, we do not want journalists at the forefront." Thus began a retreat for journalists to the western gate of Ashdabia, 20 kilometers, where police set up a military checkpoint.

All morning pick-up of young men armed with Kalashnikov rifles and Soviet uniforms are back and forth. The truck with the supplies of food ready to go when the whistle breaks the silence of the ambulances. One, two, five ambulances at high speed pass by the checkpoint. Following car full of wounded soldiers rushing to the hospital Ashdabia.

The hospital of the city is a bustle of cars with wounded rebels. "NATO bombed us," said a boy on a stretcher with a broken ankle. " "They should help us to see what they do", accuses Suleiman, one of the doctors of the hospital. "They destroyed half of the heavy weapons that were in the forefront - he continues - and at this point I doubt they're on the side of Gaddafi." But the situation in recent days has changed.

The Army Gaddafi moves without tanks and trucks. The strategy is the same as the rebels. Pick-up with heavy weapons on board move forward quickly, download a mass of artillery rockets and come back to avoid becoming the target of NATO aircraft. "There was an exchange of fire with mortars," says Mahmmud, a rebel sitting next to the stretchers of wounded friends.

"In heaven you could hear the planes, then a bomb landed straight on our position." Meanwhile, the operating room, leaving the first wounded. Most suffered burns all over his body. "Why NATO launched a bomb to the east of Brega when he knows that the forces of Gaddafi are west of the city?" Asks Mohammed Omar, a rebel lying on a stretcher, wounded in the shoulder.

In the corridors armed men awaiting news from the operating room. But are not the best. One of the doctors who crowded the hall announced that two soldiers were killed and a third is in intensive care. He dies shortly thereafter from his injuries. While in the square in front of the hospital, weeping for the people killed and an impromptu funeral, with a body swathed in white bandages goes wild panic.

The news is that the loyalist army is at the western gate of the city, which is less than 5 km. All the wounded were evacuated to hospital in Benghazi. Some ambulances, with other cars of the few people left to Ashdabia. The rebels are moving nervously and trying to regain position. While around the town you hear the noise of heavy weapons, the road to Benghazi is a river of civilian cars and trucks with machine guns and ammunition on board.

But the advance of Colonel proves to be a false alarm. The rebels, who have retreated back toward Ashdabia meanwhile, trying to catch up and go to Brega, one of the port cities with oil terminals and strategic for both parties. But for now the firepower of the army of Gaddafi is higher than that of the rebels, who, despite NATO air support, fail to advance and are now more than a week in the same position.

Andrea Bernardi

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