The Wall Street Journal reports:
Motorists in Libya’s capital can wait days for fuel, and when they get it they have to spend about $12 a gallon—when they used to pay 60 cents. Bank withdrawals are limited to 1,000 Libyan dinars (about $625) a month. The prices of bread and other food staples have doubled.
People who recently left Tripoli tell of a city whose struggle to carry on with life as normal masks a pervasive fear. They speak of near daily house raids by the Public Guards, Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s security force dedicated to stamping out any hint of dissent. But they also describe signs that the regime’s control may be weakening, as young loyalists are shipped to a front line that is creeping ever closer to the capital, and frustration mounts with growing shortages and rising prices.
Such reports hearten rebel leaders who hope a weakened security apparatus and frustrated populace will hasten the regime’s collapse.
Rebel commanders say they are counting on armed cells to lead an uprising of Tripoli residents when rebel fighters close in on the city. The mood of residents, the degree of security forces’ control, and the ability of rebels in the city to get weapons and organize will help determine the strength of that potential uprising.
Obtaining a clear picture of what is happening in Tripoli, where Western journalists are shadowed by minders and limited in their movements, is difficult.
Interviews with five people who left the city in recent days—and support the rebels—offer a picture of life in Tripoli as a growing struggle. Blackouts expand by the day, knocking air conditioners out of service as the summer hits full gear. Sanctions and rebel sabotage of an oil pipeline have resulted in fuel shortages.
In a report released Monday, a United Nations team that just completed a weeklong fact-finding mission to Tripoli reported threefold price increases for food and transportation, and shortages of cash, fuel and electricity.
In general, however, basic food supplies can still be found in shops and markets, said Laurence Hart, acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Libya, who was on the mission.
“The issue is how sustainable the situation can be,” he said. “The main reason the food stocks are up is because the supply chain between Tunis and Tripoli is under the control of the government. If that should fall under the antigovernment forces, that would cause a serious problem in Tripoli.”
He said medical supplies, cash and fuel supplies were running low. A fuel consumption quota is in place, and Libyan oil experts have warned fuel could run out in two weeks, he said.