News / Middle East

Thousands Fleeing Libyan Violence Cross Into Tunisia

People carry their belongings after they fled Libya at the Tunisia-Libya border, near the village of Ras El Jedir, Tunisia, Feb. 24, 2011
People carry their belongings after they fled Libya at the Tunisia-Libya border, near the village of Ras El Jedir, Tunisia, Feb. 24, 2011
Lisa Bryant

Thousands of people fleeing violence in Libya streamed across Tunisia's southeastern border post of Ras El Jedir, where local citizens had mobilized food and transportation.  

They came to this desolate border area by truck, car and bus -Tunisians, Libyans, Egyptians, Chinese and Turks. All fleeing the clashes in Libya, where the opposition appeared to be gaining more areas of eastern Libya while forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi fought back elsewhere.

Tunisian Boubaker Saidan arrived in Ras El Jedir by bus from Tripoli with his wife and child.   He said things were bad in Tripoli. He had seen bullets and people had been killed.

Same story from Libyan Nater Alkerlissi, who drove through the border crossing, manned by Tunisian soldiers, in a four-wheel truck.   Alkerlissi said he arrived from the Libyan city of Zawiya near the capital - where protesters had reportedly clashed with Gadhafi loyalists on Thursday.  He said he had heard of deaths and scores injured, but he had not seen any dead firsthand.

The regional head of the Red Crescent told the French news agency AFP Thursday that about 5,000 people have fled across the Tunisian border here.  But Hamid Bouraui, an official with Tunisia's social affairs ministry, offered a higher estimate in an interview with VOA - saying about 6,000 people had passed through Wednesday and 2,000 Thursday morning alone.  It was impossible to confirm these numbers.

Bouraui said people fleeing Libya were afraid. They had seen bullets and death.

Tunisians in this area have organized food, transportation and medical services for those in need. A local scouts' group has set up a small stand, offering sandwiches, yoghurt and drinks for people.

Scouts' leader Kamel Fria said the scouts and other community groups are also handing out funds to the neediest to pay for their transportation. Local tour operators are also volunteering their buses to help transport foreigners to the Djerba airport in southern Tunisia, where they are finally flying home.

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