Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s forces have clamped down on the hospital in the city of Zawiya as rebels advanced on the city, The Associated Press reported.
Two doctors who managed to escape told the news agency the troops forced doctors to perform hours of consecutive surgeries, put snipers on the roof and an anti-aircraft gun near the entrance.
Residents interviewed in rebel-controlled parts of Zawiya gave similar accounts of how Qaddafi’s forces have terrorized them. AP has received news of mass arrests in the last few months, with one woman saying her son-in-law and two of his relatives were arrested and killed by Qaddafi agents. A rebel fighter said he was subjected to beatings and electric shocks.
The Libyan regime’s grip on the coastal city, considered a key point on the way to taking the capital Tripoli, is slipping since rebels began to successfully advance toward it several days ago.
After four days of fighting Qaddafi’s soldiers still control about 30 percent of the city, including the hospital and a bank building, a rebel spokesman told AP.
Dr. Hamid al-Shawish, a 30-year-old surgeon from the hospital, said at least 20 doctors and nurses were seized from the hospital and some remain missing.
He and a colleague told AP Qaddafi’s forces had replaced the hospital director with one of their own and were ordering medical staff around.
The doctors said civilian patients had been ordered to leave and some wards were shut down by the troops as the fighting continued and there was an influx of dead and wounded regime soldiers in the hospital.
Al-Shawish also told the news agency that the soldiers posted snipers on the roof and an anti-aircraft gun in a yard, right outside the window of the emergency room. He added that they fired randomly at nearby houses.
On Monday, Libyan rebels said they had seized Gharyan, a second strategic town near Tripoli. A takeover of Gharyan cuts off the other main route to the capital.
Qaddafi reportedly made a barely audible telephone call to state television in which he called on his followers to fight the rebels, to whom he referred as “rats.”
Meanwhile, Libya's rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) denied Tuesday it was holding backchannel talks with Qaddafi's government, or with the U.N. special envoy for Libya to resolve the country's civil war.