Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says Libyans will take up arms against Western nations if they move to impose a no-fly zone over the country. Meanwhile, opposition leaders, based in the eastern city of Benghazi, are looking to the international community for assistance. A spokesman for the rebel National Libyan Council is calling for foreign powers to effectively ground Gadhafi's air force. Susan Yackee spoke about the opposition’s pleas with Phil Ittner, our correspondent who is currently in Benghazi.
Ittner: The word coming from opposition groups is that they are urging the international community to step up their efforts, to increase the speed of the decision-making process and to try to get that no-fly zone imposed because, they say, the longer this goes on, the more casualties there will be.
There is still a feeling of optimism here in Benghazi. The opposition groups say that they are confident that the government of Moammar Gadhafi will fall and that it is only a matter of time. The question is whether it is going to be a long period of time without any international assistance and without a no-fly zone and whether it will drag on for an extended period of time with higher casualties?
The word from the opposition groups and the message being sent to the international community is: You stood by in the past in situations like Kosovo and Rwanda, and we saw the high casualties that happened there before you eventually intervened. What they are hoping for here in Benghazi is that the international community will not sit around and bide its time and deliberate while the casualty numbers in Libya rise. The feeling here is – if you are going to do a no-fly zone, now is the time.
What do you hear from the frontlines?
Ittner: We are hearing of more casualties, more airstrikes. The number that was given today by the opposition is that since the beginning of the uprising on February 17, 3,500 people have died. That is their number and they are saying that this number will increase until the Gadhafi regime falls and the regime, they say, will fall a lot quicker if the international community – which they know is holding high-level meetings in Brussels tomorrow – speeds up the deliberation process and makes its decision sooner rather than later.
Yackee: What about supplies, particularly medical supplies?
Ittner: We are getting reports that supplies are dwindling, that things are getting more difficult. We have not directly seen that on the ground with our own eyes, but we are told that medical supplies and, in some instances, food supplies, are perhaps not as secure as they were when the uprising began.
We, however, have not seen any instances of desperation, but certainly the word from the opposition organizations here is that they are nearly not as well stocked as they were when this uprising began.
|Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter|
and discuss them on our Facebook page.