Over 10,000 Rebels, Civilians Killed in Libya So Far
The revolution in Libya has not been going as smooth as it did in Tunisia and Egypt. Unlike in those countries, anti-government rebels have faced steep losses – with as many as 10,000 people killed, and 20,000 more missing, rebel leaders say. In addition, they say, some 30,000 have been injured – many with serious, life-threatening injuries.
The report on rebel losses, released over the weekend, has prompted the International Committee for the Red Cross to investigate. The ICRC will send a team by boat to the western rebel city of Misrata to see for themselves the level of violence being committed against rebels.
For now, the rebels say they are in a standoff, and they expect fighting to continue for the foreseeable future. A ceasefire proposed by African diplomats fell apart even before it got off the ground, and fighting broke out again in Misrata, as well as near Ajdabiya, a key eastern town that has changed hands numerous times.
Besides violence at the hands of forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, residents of rebel-held cities have been suffering privation and even, in some cases, starvation. A UN World Food Program cargo ship carrying medical supplies, doctors and other aid arrived in Misrata last Thursday. The ship was carrying more 600 metric tons of food, including wheat flour and vegetable oil - enough to feed more than 40,000 people for a month.
In an interview with the BBC, former Libyan Foreign Minister and Intelligence chief Moussa Koussa, warned that Libya could turn into another Somalia – a country run by warlords and violent gangs – if the civil war continued much longer.
But rebel leaders dismiss that notion. Speaking to reporters, rebel media spokesman Mustafa Gheriani said, "We don't have ethnic groups waging war against each other. We don't have political parties waging war against each other. There are two fronts. There are the people of the country, the Libyan people, and Colonel Qaddafi and his regime and his kids.” Gehrani said that the revels would keep fighting as long as needed.
Despite the continued NATO air support against Libyan Army forces, rebel leaders say that more effort was needed to help protect civilians. Speaking to reporters, Ali Al Isawi, a representative of Libya's National Transition Council (NTC), told reporters after a meeting in Luxembourg, “We want more efforts regarding protection of civilians against this aggression."
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe agreed, and said that NATO should step up its involvement in order to help prevent further civilian casualties in Libya.