- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 19, 2011

Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces attacked the eastern city of Benghazi, the heart of the rebellion against the regime, and heavy fighting was reported from the western city of Misurata on Saturday.

Multiple sources in and outside Libya confirmed to The Washington Times that pro-Gadhafi forces had entered Benghazi from the city’s west.

Rebel leaders expressed concern at the absence of international action despite the passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution on Thursday that approved a no-fly zone over Libya and “all necessary action,” short of a ground invasion, to protect the Libyan people.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after an emergency summit in Paris that French jets were already targeting Gadhafi’s forces, according to the Associated Press.

“Now there is a bombardment by artillery and rockets on all districts of Benghazi,” Mustafa Abdul Jalil, a former justice minister in the Gadhafi regime who now heads the opposition Interim National Transitional Council, told Al Jazeera television.

“There will be a catastrophe if the international community does not implement the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council. We appeal to the international community, to all the free world, to stop this tyranny from exterminating civilians,” Mr. Jalil said.

Libyans said a “massacre” had taken place in Adjabiya, in the northeast, and a major offensive was under way in the southwestern city of Zintan. Pro-Gadhafi forces also kept up their offensive in Misurata, 130 miles east of Tripoli.

Mohamed Benrasali, a member of the provisional committee administering the city of Misurata, told The Times in a satellite phone interview that the pro-democracy opposition is “very disheartened by the delay in international action.” Explosions could be heard in the background as he recounted the offensive being waged on his city.

Meanwhile, world leaders were meeting in Paris on Saturday to discuss military action in Libya.

Mr. Benrasali said 51 people had been killed and 83 injured in Misurata since Friday. Mr. Benrasali, who was speaking from a medical center in the city, said hospital beds had been set up in offices to accommodate the large number of victims of the fighting.

“We are under heavy shelling. Shells are hitting the city from all directions,” Mr. Benrasali said, adding, “Gadhafi is playing games with the international community.”

He added that pro-Gadhafi forces are waging a campaign of retribution against Misurata, which remains under rebel control, and were going from door to door terrorizing people. As a consequence of this campaign, terrified residents have been fleeing to the center of the city from its outskirts and residents worried about a humanitarian catastrophe.

A Libyan American, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said pro-Gadhafi snipers are “using civilians as human shields and trying to establish presence in [Misurata] prior to expected U.N. military operations.”

Another Libyan source, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity citing security concerns, said snipers have been taking out targets at random.

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