The situation in the Libyan city of Misrata is becoming increasingly desperate, and rebel fighters there have called on NATO to step up its airstrikes on loyalist positions around the city to protect the civilian population and aid the resistance.
Human Flesh Blasted Against The Bakery Wall
From The New York Times:
MISURATA, Libya — Military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi have been firing into residential neighborhoods in this embattled city with heavy weapons, including cluster bombs that have been banned by much of the world and ground-to-ground rockets, according to witnesses and survivors, as well as physical evidence.
Both of these so-called indiscriminate weapons, which strike large areas with a dense succession of high-explosive munitions, by their nature cannot be fired precisely. When fired into populated areas, they place civilians at grave risk.
The dangers were evident beside one of the impact craters on Friday, where eight people had been killed while standing in a bread line. Where a crowd had assembled for food, bits of human flesh had been blasted against a cinder-block wall.
The use of such weapons in these ways could add urgency to the arguments by Britain and France that the alliance needs to step up attacks on the Qaddafi forces, to better fulfill the United Nations mandate to protect civilians.
What Are Cluster Bombs?
Cluster bombs explode in midair, indiscriminately throwing out dozens of high-explosive bomblets which cause widespread damage and injuries over a large area. The sub-munitions often fail to explode on impact but detonate when stepped on or picked up.
According to The Daily Telegraph, reports from the city on Friday said the Libyans had used mortar fired shells to disperse multiple bombs in residential areas. The Geneva Convention 1949 protocol obliges armies to take all care to ensure civilians are not harmed in attacks on the enemy.
Secretary Clinton Condemns Gaddafi’s Brutality Toward Civilians
As reported in The Daily Telegraph,
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, condemned Col Gaddafis brutality toward civilians.
She said: “That is worrying information. And it is one of the reasons the fight in Misurata is so difficult, because it’s at close quarters, it’s in amongst urban areas and it poses a lot of challenges to both Nato and to the opposition.”
Witnesses saw the cluster bombs explode in the overnight offensive. On Friday fragments of the Spanish made MAT-120 cargo mortar, which holds 21 smaller sub-munitions, were found. When scattered over a wide area, the bombs kill indiscriminately. Markings on the fragments show the mortars were made in Spain in 2007, which banned the weapon in 2008.
NATO Must Act
NATO has said that Misrata is its “number one priority”. Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy last week described the government attack on Misrata as a “medieval siege… to strangle its population into submission”. In a jointly authored article, the three leaders wrote: “The brave citizens of those towns that have held out against forces that have been mercilessly targeting them would face a fearful vengeance if the world accepted [Gaddafi staying]. It would be an unconscionable betrayal.”
The shift by the US, Britain and France towards regime change as a goal of the Nato operation is controversial among some countries that backed UN resolution 1973, which authorised military action to protect Libya’s civilian population. But the three countries that have been the driving force behind the international coalition insist that Gaddafi must “go and go for good.”
U.S. Has Not Agreed To Ban Cluster Bombs
While Gaddafi’s tactics are brutal and murderous, it is to be noted that the U.S. is one of the nations that has thus far refused to ratify the agreement to ban cluster bombs.
Maybe it’s time that the United States changed its mind on that one.
Photo credit: iStock
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