Red Cross delivers aid to Libya's Sirte
Sirte - The international Red Cross delivered baby milk, diapers and other humanitarian aid to civilians in Muammar Gaddafi’s besieged hometown on Thursday, seeking to ease shortages amid rapidly deteriorating conditions.
Dibeh Fakhr, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said two trucks entered Sirte and handed over the goods, which also included medical supplies, hygiene kits and clean drinking water, to representatives of families remaining in the Mediterranean coastal city. It was the ICRC's third successful delivery since Saturday, she said.
Sirte, 400km southeast of Tripoli, is the most important of the pro-Gaddafi cities that are still holding out against Libya's new rulers and its defenders have put up a fierce resistance for three weeks, with the two sides trading artillery, tank and mortar shelling.
Revolutionary forces claim Gaddafi’s fighters are using a conference centre and a hospital as bases, but Fakhr said the ICRC has been unable to confirm those claims because the situation was too dangerous to tour the hospital during previous trips on Saturday and Monday, when they delivered 50 oxygen tanks.
She said ICRC representatives were communicating with both sides and giving the aid to elders appointed as representatives of the families remaining in Sirte for distribution.
"We barely manage to drive in, deliver the items and get out because the security situation is so bad and we can be targeted and may be caught in the shooting," Fakhr said, speaking from a mosque that is being used as a field hospital on the outskirts of the city.
Fakhr said the ICRC was "very concerned" about the humanitarian situation inside the city but didn't have a number of civilians who were still inside.
She said most people were fleeing from the east of the city toward Benghazi and this week the ICRC distributed aid to 18 000 people living in camps in that area.
Revolutionary forces from Benghazi, meanwhile, have pushed farthest into Sirte, occupying a hotel near the city centre and using it as a base to shell the centre of town.
Dr Nuri al-Naari said 70 revolutionary forces have been killed in the past 15 days of fighting in and around Sirte.
Deputy Defence Minister Fawzy Abu Kataf on Wednesday predicted it would take two more days of heavy shelling to uproot the remaining pro-Gaddafi fighters in the city. But he said revolutionary fighters were holding off on an all-out assault to allow residents to leave.
Field commander Saleh al-Jabou said intelligence suggests that most families had vacated the city centre. He said pro-Gaddafi forces controlled a stretch of 21km inside the city but the area was strategic because it contained residential units.
He said that revolutionary forces were shelling a football stadium and a beach near the fishing port in Sirte to try to scare the remaining families into leaving the city.
"It is one of our strategies - to make a lot of shelling noises so the families inside think there is a battle and flee the city," he said.