Pitched battle in Libyas western Misurat, 17 killed

Tripoli: Pro-government troops intensified the shelling in the rebel-held city of Misurata in western Libya on Monday as fierce battle raged on the eastern frontline of Ajdabiyah amid fears of a looming humanitarian disaster.

Pitched battle was on for control of Libya`s third-largest city Misurata, which came under heavy artillery attack from pro-government troops, after 17 people were reported to have been killed yesterday.

Aid workers and Misrata residents said the situation there is "dire" amid severe shortages of food, power, water and medicine, as the Libyan regime intensified their shelling of the city, BBC reported.

Britain`s Department for International Development said approximately 300 civilians had been killed and a further 1,000 injured since late February in Misurata, which has been under siege of the pro-government troops for seven weeks.

However, media reports said 1,000 people are estimated to have been died in the fighting in Misurata and "80 per cent of the deaths are civilians".

There was no let up in the offensive on the rebels` eastern frontline outpost of Ajdabiyah, which is being used by the anti-Gaddafi forces as a staging post to regain the strategic oil port of Brega, 80-km west of Ajdabiya.

Rebels fought off an attack by government troops in Ajdabiya yesterday, a day after retreating from the eastern frontline of Brega.

Gaddafi`s forces advanced on Ajdabiya, the gateway to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, under a heavy artillery barrage in the morning and fought at close range with rebels on the town?s southern outskirts before a counterattack forced them back, Al Jazeera quoted witnesses as saying.

The rebels have blamed the western alliance for failing to give them enough support.

"Where are the NATO forces?" asked Absalam Hamid, who identified himself as a rebel captain. "We don?t know why they didn?t bomb them," he was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

Amid the stalemate in the civil war, British Prime Minister David Cameron has said the terms of the UN resolution on Libya are a "restriction" on NATO which is enforcing a no-fly zone in a bid to protect civilians from Libyan forces.

"We`re not occupying, we`re not invading, that`s not what we`re about. And that is obviously a restriction on us, but I think it is the right restriction," he said while speaking on Sky News yesterday.

"It`s because we`ve said we`re not going to invade, we`re not going to occupy, this is more difficult in many ways, because we can`t fully determine the outcome with what we have available," Cameron underlined.

The failure of the rebels to hold their ground in the battle with the government troops, has forced the Obama administration to look for a country, most likely in Africa, that might be willing to provide shelter to Gaddafi.

Even as the embattled leader has refused to quit, the New York Times said the Obama administration has begun an intense search for a country that would accept Qaddafi.

"The move by the United States to find a haven for Colonel Gaddafi may help explain how the White House is trying to enforce President Obama?s declaration that the Libyan leader must leave the country but without violating Mr Obama?s refusal to put troops on the ground," the Time said.