Seven killed in Libya clashes

Tue, May 17, 2011, 01:00

Seven people were killed today in Misrata during clashes between rebels and Libyan forces loyal to leader Muammar Gadafy, a doctor at a hospital in the rebel-held Libyan city said.

The doctor said most of the casualties were rebel fighters killed in battles on the western and eastern edges of the city.

The rebel-held Western Mountains came under intense bombardment today from Col Gadafy's army, forcing rebels to briefly pull back from the border with Tunisia as rockets slammed into the desert.

Although they managed to retain control of the Dehiba-Wazin border crossing, rebels said it was the most sustained bombardment for at least a week, killing three of their men and wounding several others.

The border crossing is a lifeline for rebels fighting on the western front of Libya's two-month-old conflict, allowing food, medicine and fuel supplies to reach a chain of rebel-held towns stretching more than 200 km (125 miles) along the sparsely populated mountain plateau. The rebels hold the high ground, but are coming under artillery fire from pro-Gadafy forces in the desert plains below.

A military field hospital in the Tunisian frontier town of Dehiba had treated 13 wounded men by late afternoon.

Most had been brought from the mountain towns of Zintan and Nalut, suffering from shrapnel and gunshot wounds, a military official said. There appeared to have been close-quarter fighting as well as shelling.

Ambulances carrying many wounded men crossed over into Tunisia, a Reuters photographer at the border post said.

Jemaa, a rebel spokesman from Nalut, said Col Gadafy's side had also suffered casualties.

"We captured a bulldozer and a tank and a lot of ammunition. The situation is calm there and the crossing is under our control," he said by phone from the border. "There are sporadic clashes on the road between Wazin and Ghazaiya, which is controlled by Gadafy forces."

He said the main road from the mountains to Tunisia, however, remained in rebel hands.

At least four Grad rockets slammed into the desert on the Tunisian side of the border and within several hundred metres of the crossing. Dozens more mortars and rockets thumped into the mountainside in Libya.

The sound of anti-aircraft and machine gun fire, most likely from the rebels, ricocheted between the flat-top mountains.

Several hours into the shelling, at least five white pick-ups, the vehicle of choice of Libyan rebels, took a small road running along the border into the foothills, positioning themselves in the slope of the mountain.

A Grad rocket thumped into the ground several hundred metres (yards) from them but they did not move. A Tunisian fighter jet made passes near the border and a Tunisian army helicopter was also flying in the area.

The intensity of the bombardment suggested pro-Gadafy forces continue to be able to replenish ammunition despite repeated air strikes by Nato targeting huge weapons depots in the desert southeast of the rebel-held town of Zintan.

Some 40,000 people, mainly women and children, have so far fled the Western Mountains into Tunisia.

Separately, Tunisian television reported that the Tunisian government may report Libya to the UN Security Council for committing acts of an enemy.

Tunisia considers recent acts carried out by its neighbour as "enemy actions", the broadcast said, citing a government communique.

Reuters