last edits Dec. 12
New intro, Oct.3:
One month ago, as Tripoli was being "secured," the rabble forces turned their eyes towards col. Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, to which the ruler had "strategically withdrawn." Both sides issued some tough talk, Gaddafi vowing a long insurgency based from Sirte, the rebels promising to take the city in a few days. As the Associated Press reported on September 1:
"We want to save our fighters and not lose a single one in battles with Gadhafi's forces," said Mohammed al-Rajali, a spokesman for the rebel leadership in the eastern city of Benghazi. "In the end, we will get Sirte, even if we have to cut water and electricity" and let NATO pound it with airstrikes.Surely that was hyperbole - a medieval siege of that type would be illegal, something Gaddafi gets accused of, but which the forces of enlightenment and liberation - and their Euro-American air support -would never dream of actually doing. The possibility of surrender, or an internal coup, or something helpful was talked up, but serious battle was readied for just in case.
Neither Good nor Great
A few weeks later as Western journalists laid around embedded with rabble (Government, NTC or "former rebel") forces outside besieged Sirte, they have picked up bits and pieces from some of the civilians currently fleeing from within. A few managed to capture some surprisingly candid moments:
"The situation isn't good. There's random shelling, rockets falling on people every day, falling on civilians," resident Jamal Makhzoum said from the driver's seat of a sedan heading west from the city.
When a man near the car interrupted, Makhzoum held up his hand and suggested it was not clear to him who was responsible for the shelling that has destroyed dozens of homes and prevented deliveries of much-needed food and medicine.
"Just a minute. These people say it isn't them," he said, gesturing toward Sirte. "And the revolutionaries here say it isn't them. And every day we bury two or three people." [Reuters]It was never left this ambiguous in Misrata - only Libya's rebels could be so audacious as to suggest the shelling from the outskirts was by the besieged party inside. (And, ironically, there's some evidence they themselves have done this somewhere, while dressed as drunk Gaddafi soldiers and filming themselves.) They insist someone stating the obvious to the media correct himself. "Shoot randomly?! Target civilians?!! Us?!!!" I can see a rebel fighter shouting, firing his AK back and to the right for effect, hitting dirt and another car.
The ever-level UK Telegraph reported that rockets were being fired, by someone:
Hundreds of civilians continued to pour out of the city on Thursday in cars and pickups loaded with mattresses and food as the former rebel fighters fired machine guns and incoming rockets crashed on the city's outskirts.Those civilians are slowing them down? On the upside, at least that should allow their ammunition to last. The downside is that these civilians are shielding the regime forces from attack. Again, human shields, prevented from leaving, we hear, by crude threats. But they were starting to come out now, by what they're saying, because too many of them were dying from random rockets from someone, and the de-facto food and water and medicine embargoes were probably starting to hurt.
National Transitional Council (NTC) forces have surrounded the city for a week, but say their progress has been stymied largely because there are many civilians still inside the city."
The Telegraph heard from a different refugee, citing a whole different class of problems compounding and/or replacing those other things.
"The situation isn't great," said one resident who did not give his name as he left the city, where he said Gaddafi's forces were moving "like gangs" through the streets. "There have been executions," he said, naming two men who he said had been executed on Thursday. He also said he had witnessed executions in front of the house of a local family, whose name he gave as Safruny.For a while now there's been a reported pattern of brutal and even bizarre Gaddafi atrocities right before a rebel conquest, with the results found just after. In reality the massacres often seem to happened just after as well, despite the rebel stories (consider the Abu Salim trauma hospital). This time, we're getting glimpses ahead of time that the people who will turn up sliced in specific ways will be proven regime crimes. Handy.
An NTC commander on the outskirts of Sirte, separately showed Reuters a handwritten list of families whose members were said to have been executed in Sirte. The list, which he said he compiled with information from people inside the city, included the Safruny family.Take note and sharpen your knives. Also, don't expect many public records to help verify identities to have survived rebel - er NTC - destruction over the past six months.
The commander gave his first name as Saleh but declined to give his family name. He said other attacks on suspected NTC sympathisers had been carried out. "One man, they cut him like this," Saleh said, dragging his finger from the ends of his mouth across his cheeks. "Another, they cut his lips."
But the "NTC forces" have for the moment halted their offensive, perhaps allowing a few less deaths for the moment and a little aid perhaps, to this battered holdout city. One reason given was a shortage of ammunition, which they haven't been able to use much of, considering all the civilians still there. But it was also acknowledged the rebels took heavy casualties from the stiff resistance still there despite everything. History has taught us that they get angry at resistance, and as we hear from Tawergha, people are found dead and cities emptied when they're angry. I think whether there are or aren't sliced up dead people there now, who can be claimed as rebel family, there will be before this is done.
NATO's Humanitarian Bombing, Seven Months In
This is all about the attacks from the ground, but for a while now Sirte has been suffering worse from the Rebels' unreachable sky Gods, all without hardly a sound in the Western media. They could be doing just about anything there, like using cluster bombs (video often cited) or mustard gas (it's been allegedly confirmed in Bani Walid). And since Gaddafi can still hire mercenaries, France says, NATO bombing continues and must. A few days ago, Human Rights Investigations posted a great piece on what's happening there:
NATO bombing of Sirte: the new Guernica
Moussa Ibrahim, in a call from a satellite phone to Reuters office in Tunis on Saturday 17th September, said:As usual, NATO cannot, for all the trying in the world, confirm a scrap of it. These kids and old lady could have been hurt and killed by anything:
“NATO attacked the city of Sirte last night with more than 30 rockets directed at the city’s main hotel and the Tamin building, which consists of more than 90 residential flats.
“The result is more than 354 dead and 89 still missing [usually dead] and almost 700 injured in one night.”
“In the last 17 days more than 2,000 residents of the city of Sirte were killed in NATO air strikes.”
A good French site I just discovered has video of the latest portion of this, posted September 22. Auto-translated:
The hospital in Sirte in Libya is full of dead women and children killed by the bombing of French and English pilots. A massacre in absolute silence of the UN and NGOs French and English. Circulate these videos for the families of the pilots voeint their children swinging in Libya killing of babies and children.The same site also has the hospital itself being bombed. If I may pull a Western journalist here, I'll just pass on these reports as unconfirmed but alarming. There is a guy who might be a doctor, with an invisible arm injury, and a woman who might be a nurse, with mysterious but mechanical injuries, perhaps grave, and to the whole upper body - very sad to see.
Update September 30:
More recent turns in the humanitarian crisis in Sirte: Civilians accuse NATO of massacre in Sirte raids, The Australian, Sept. 28
An excellent piece by Bill Van Auken:THE civilians pouring out of the besieged city of Sirte accused NATO of genocide yesterday as rebel forces called in reinforcements and prepared for a fresh assault on Muammar Gaddafi's home town.
Long lines of civilian vehicles were leaving after a night of NATO air attacks on the town. Rebel forces fighting for the National Transitional Council added artillery and mortar fire.
The people leaving the town, many looking scared, said conditions inside Sirte were disastrous. They made claims which, if verified, are a challenge for NATO - which operates under a UN mandate to protect civilians - saying the NATO bombing raids hit homes, schools and hospitals.
"It was worse than awful," said Riab Safran, 28, as his car was searched by rebel fighters outside Sirte. His family had slept on the beach because the houses were being bombed, he said. "They hit all kinds of buildings - schools, hospitals," he said. He could not distinguish between the NATO bombs and the rebels shells, he said, but believed it was a NATO bomb that destroyed his home on Saturday.
Thousands of refugees have tried to flee the city, forced to pass through checkpoints set up by the NATO-backed forces, where many have been taken prisoner, accused of being Gaddafi supporters. [...] those remaining in the city feared violence at the hands of the “rebels” after reports of many of those fleeing being detained and of women being abducted from cars leaving the city.Responding to rebel criticism that NATO isn't bombing enough, Colonel Roland Lavoie, the air campaign's military spokesman, riterated that they've been flying 100 sorties a day just over Sirte and the few other holdout cities. He said to AFP “the number of strikes depends on the danger against the civilian population, in conformity of our mandate." It seems instead he's got it backwards - the danger to civilians depends on the number of NATO strikes. He also added, in a sickening display of doublespeak as they've brought the rebels to the verge of national control "we do not aim to bring support to NTC forces on the ground, this is why there is no operational coordination with NTC forces.” No, it's just a coincidence that they're both committing war crimes against the same city to make life unbearable or impossible and flush the people out swiftly.
The Wall Street Journal reported from one of these checkpoints, describing lines of cars and trucks, packed with civilians and piled with mattresses and other belongings:
“As refugees gathered, the Misrata fighters checked their names against lists of suspected Gaddafi loyalists. Some men were arrested while others were told to wait on the side of the road with their families.
“‘We’re going to punish even those that supported Moammar with words,’ said a bearded fighter to a man who protested his detention. ‘We are the knights that liberated Libya.’ ”
The conditions within the city unleashed by this humanitarian concern make it clear why some are willing to risk the demanding gauntlet to leave. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF—Doctors Without Borders) was somehow allowed brief contact with hospital staff within the black hole. They told of hospitals overflowing with the sick, injured, and dying - grave injuries from NATO bombs and/or rebel shells and rockets. Medicines - from antibiotics to painkillers - are running low, and compressed oxygen is simply unavailable (oxygen plants are a frequent NATO target in Libya). Shockingly, water-borne illnesses are proliferating as their clean water has run out (see below). There's constant danger, almost no food, little sleep, and little remaining hope in the city.
Some would say it's like Misrata, but this time, it's hit much harder and much quicker. This time, no powerful outsiders are ignoring a weak Libyan government blockade to evacuate wounded, bring in weapons, reinforcements, or even the basics for survival. This time it's the West's embargo and the combined firepower raining in on the city (from whoever) that has nothing coming in. Many would like to help, and are ready to, but no one's even able to help the residents inside at all, thanks to the inhuman NATO-rebel axis. Van Auken's piece continues:
“There is no food, there is no medicine, and every night, for five or six hours, NATO bombs all sorts of buildings,” Sami Abderraman, 64, told the Spanish daily El Pais as he sought to leave Sirte. “Hundreds of women and children have died like animals.” Abderraman estimated that as many as 3,000 people have been killed in the siege.And we still await further news on the Gaddafi-ordered massacres to be found inside, once these fighters take control of every house. I predict Gaddafi victims will be found starved, stricken with waterborne disease and denied medicine, blown up by artillery, crushed by bombed houses, perhaps gang raped, tortured, sliced-up as specified above... The variety of the Colonel's cruelty, sure to be revealed soon, is only matched by the mountain of crimes it needs to be stretched taut over, in a lame effort at concealment that will work like a charm on most.
Another refugee, who asked not to be named, told El Pais that “The people who remain are going to fight to the death.”
Ali Omar, who fled the city with 27 members of his extended family, recounted the carnage being carried out by the NATO-backed rebels advancing on Sirte from Benghazi in the east.
“The easterners are exterminating everything in front of them,” said the 42-year-old Omar. He and his family, he said, had been pinned down inside their home by heavy gunfire for seven hours on Sunday.
Oct. 1: A Little More on Food and Water
A Reuters report took note of the increasing role of enforced hunger in the NTC's plans to flush Sirte of its people, one way or another:
Several residents said they were leaving Sirte because they had not eaten for days.I admit I'm a little hazy on the details, but if Gaddafi's people had ever laid a siege like this on Misrata, it would be strenuously called a war crime and attempt at genocide.
"I am not scared. I am hungry," said Ghazi Abdul-Wahab, a Syrian who has lived in the town for 40 years.
Abdul-Wahab said he had been sleeping in the streets with his family after a NATO airstrike hit a building next to his house, making him fear his home also could be struck.
Some residents said they had paid up to $800 for the fuel to leave the city because it was in short supply. Others said pasta and flour were now changing hands for large sums.
Doctors at a field hospital near the eastern front line said an elderly woman died from malnutrition Friday morning and they had seen other cases.
And water ... In a desert country, nothing's more precious in maintaining the line between life and death. The old government currently being starved into submission in Sirte had supplied water to all Libyan cities via its Great Man-Made River (GMMR) which, to my knowledge, they never turned off on any rebel city during the whole war.
So if a city is out of water like everyone says Sirte is, it's because someone turned off the spigot to them. The NTC is in general control of the country and the spigots, and the city they're besieging is starting to die of thirst. [update, Dec. 12: Rather the water mains were all burst, flooding the streets with the city's drinking water. Then rebels were slowed a bit by the knee-deep pools, and claimed that was why Gaddafi ordered the water turned loose - to slow the rebels down a little once they got in]
Reuters reports the UN had to bring water in towards the city, but couldn't get it inside:
The United Nations is sending trucks of drinking water for the increasing flow of civilians crammed into vehicles on the road from Sirte, heading either toward Benghazi to the east or Misrata to the west, he said.So water is finally available, but only to those who agree to surrender and leave, putting themselves in NTC hands, for whatever fate awaits. Then they can finally have access to drinkable water again, if they're not arrested first for daring to support the government in the past. The report also says:
But fighting around the city, Gaddafi's hometown, and continuing insecurity around the Bani Walid area, the other loyalist hold-out, are preventing the world body from deploying aid workers inside, he said.
"There are two places we'd really like access to, Sirte and Ben Walid, because of concern on the impact of conflict on the civilian population," the U.N. source in Tripoli, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity, told Reuters in Geneva.
U.N. officials do not have direct contact with pro-Gaddafi forces in Sirte, where both sides accuse the other of cutting off water and electricity, the U.N. source said.Really? They have the fucking balls to say Gaddafi's people, African mercenaries I presume, finally turned the water off - to kill the people of Sirte as they make their last stand there? And the rebels can't figure out how to turn it back on, for all their desire to just help people who are trying to live there? More accutely than usual, I'm aware these "people" are spoiled rotten and unaccountable, lying, evil, twisted sacks of shit. And they're totally winning, with the stupid world kissing their asses all the way through a crash course of war crimes just reflexively now put on Gaddafi's endless fucking open tab.
A brief cease-fire was declared to allow some civilians to escape, and hundreds took up the offer. One family family fleeing a bit too fast was shot dead (as usual, it was unclear to most which side fired on them). Then the cease-fire ended and bombing and shelling have resumed. It doesn't seem anything went into Sirte, and nothing but fire is scheduled until there's no life left in it.
Oct. 5/7: See the comments below for continued fascinating and sickening developments, submitted by readers and by myself, in the historically notorious and criminal grinding down of Sirte, Libya. Of special importance is the obvious rebel moves to keep the Red Cross, again, from helping or even seeing the city's hospitals, starved of all possible supplies and power, and reportedly bombed repeatedly. As CNN's correspondent said with muted disgust, the rebels felt only Gaddafi loyalists remained, so they felt free to squeeze and "make them beg."
Hey, the video a way up this post shows a kid who's been begging for a while or is dead now after a NATO bomb burned half his body, crushed and mangled his legs, and crushed his guts. I've seen the video and he's struggling with immense pain in the absence of proper medicines and painkillers. I doubt they've been able to evacuate him, for "safety concerns," and the situation only gets worse as nothing is allowed in. But I understand - not until every last person is begging and none capable of fighting anymore will the last bullets be fired to finish them off and then peace. So go the brave, and so slaughter the plague rats of NATO.
Update Dec 12: I didn't update this forever, but once the rebels controlled the city, they simply vacated it, blasting open every building, and leaving a pile of rubble. And then through October and into November the Sirte massacres started piling up - at least 400 loyalist dead in a mass grave now, an unknown but significant number of them executed, some after withstanding torture, eye-gouging, etc., visible in leaked photos of the mass grave internees. How many more were disposed of in other ways or unknown to us is obviously unsure.
Civilized world: time for another pat on the back.