The #Libyan people are no longer protesting, we’re simply trying to survive. This is war, not revolution. #Gaddafi changed the game. @Libyan4life
At least 15 people have been killed and 200 more wounded in the Libyan city of Zawiya, an eyewitness told CNN.
Wounded people started arriving at the hospital Friday morning. Most of the injuries resulted from gunshots, and many of the injuries were to the head and chest.
The eyewitness said the hospital is running out of medical supplies.
“There is a river of blood here in the hospital. The situation is very bad,” he said.
The Washington Post reports:
Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi unleashed their fiercest counterattack yet against the opposition on Friday, assaulting rebel-held positions by ground and air and firing on demonstrators in the government stronghold of Tripoli.
The lethal force of the government offensive – including what rebels described as a “bloodbath” in the strategic western port city of Zawiyah – raised the stakes for Washington and its western allies. They have threatened military intervention should the Gaddafi government cross red lines including the systematic endangerment of defenseless civilians or if the battle for Libya evolved into a long-term, bloody stalemate.
Yet if anything, the events Friday underscored Gaddafi’s ability to press defiantly ahead with a brutal campaign to reclaim land already lost to the rebels and squelch dissent within bastions of government control. The government appeared to be attempting to secure a buffer zone around Tripoli and target areas vital to the country’s oil industry, taking aim at cities and ports that have given the rebels a foothold close to the capital.
The White House expressed renewed alarm, saying that President Obama is “appalled by the use of force against unarmed, peaceful civilians.” Obama is being briefed on Libya three times a day, and “we’re not taking any options off the table,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.
With thousands of refugees stuck on the Tunisian border with Libya, the U.S. Air Force flew in humanitarian supplies for them Friday aboard two C-130 cargo planes and planned to return Saturday to pick up Egyptian refugees and fly them home.
The fiercest attack on Friday fell on the opposition-held city of Zawiyah, home to one of Libya’s largest oil refineries and situated just 27 miles west of Tripoli. Official Libyan media claimed the government had retaken the city, though the rebels there denied it. As of late Friday, however, the city remained under siege.
“We are still in the square,” said Mohamed Magid, an opposition spokesman. “Zawiyah has not fallen.”
Gaddafi loyalists armed with tanks and heavy machine guns and reportedly led by his son, Khamis Gaddafi, launched an offensive around midday, rebels said. Forces loyal to Gaddafi entered the city from several directions, using tanks, SUVs and trucks armed with heavy machine guns, witnesses said. They also laid siege to the city with mortar fire.
Though details were impossible to verify, witnesses in Zawiyah said at least 15 people were killed and 200 wounded, with a senior rebel leader reported to be among the dead. Some reports put the death toll as high as 50.
The Cable reports:
Libyan Ambassador to the United States Ali Aujali, who joined the opposition in the early days of the crisis, issued an urgent plea for the United States to take more aggressive actions against the Libyan government in an interview with Foreign Policy today.
Aujali strongly supported the implementation of a no-fly zone over Libya, calling it “a historic responsibility for the United States.” He also criticized the arguments about the risks of no-fly zone, which have been made by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other military officials. “When we say, for example, that the no-fly zone will take a long time, that it is complicated — please don’t give this regime any time to crush the Libyan people,” he said.
The ambassador, who began his diplomatic career four decades ago, raised the flag of the Libyan opposition over the ambassador’s residence in Washington after resigning last week. He told Foreign Policy that he decided to resign following Saif al-Qaddafi’s speech on Feb. 21, in which Qaddafi’s favored son warned protesters of “rivers of blood” if they did not cease their demonstrations.
Aujali warned that further delay in organizing an international response raised the risk that Qaddafi would be able to reconstitute his strength. “Time means losing lives, time means that Qaddafi will regain control,” he said. “He has weapons, he has rockets with about 450 kilometers’ distance, and we have to protect the people. These mercenaries now are everywhere.”
The Guardian reports:
Britain is to send a team of experts capable of giving military advice into eastern Libya to make contact with opposition leaders as the struggle for control of the country escalates.
The move is a clear intervention on the ground to bolster the anti-Gaddafi uprising, learn more about its leadership, and see what logistical support it needs. Whitehall sources said the diplomatic taskforce would not be providing arms to the rebels, as there is an international arms embargo.
It came as Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, said that Tripoli had accepted a peace initiative put forward by Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez, which was heavily criticised by the White House. Kaim said it stated that a committee would be formed by African, Asian and Latin American countries “to help the international dialogue and to help the restoration of peace and stability”.
Interpol issued a global alert against Muammar Gaddafi and 15 other Libyans, including his daughter and seven sons, in an effort to enforce sanctions.