April 14, 2011
A rocket attack on a residential district of Misurata has killed 23 civilians, rebels said as they warned of an impending government “massacre” if Nato does not intensify its attacks there.
A rebel spokesman said troops loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi appeared to be deliberately targeting civilians.
Most of the dead were reported to be women and children, along with three Egyptian migrant workers waiting to be evacuated.
“A massacre … will take place here if Nato does not intervene strongly,” the rebel spokesman, who identified himself as Abdelsalam, told Reuters by telephone from Misrata.
It is difficult to independently verify accounts from western Libya because journalists are prevented from reporting freely.
France and the United Kingdom, which are leading the coalition air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces, have called for other Nato allies to help intensify operations.
The United States has faced calls to return to the front line in Libya, amid growing fears that Nato is failing to make progress against Gaddafi’s forces.
Rebel leaders said that Washington should reverse its decision to step back from offensive operations in Libya and once again take part in ground attacks.
Mahmoud Shamman, a spokesman for the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council, said Nato had allowed Gaddafi to regain the initiative on the battlefield since it took over from the US.
“When the Americans were involved the mission was very active and it as more leaning toward protecting the civilians,” he said. “Nato is very slow responding to these attacks on the civilians. We’d like to see more work toward protecting the civilians.”
A French official suggested that the US should deploy its specialist ground-attack aircraft including A-10 Thunderbolt tankbusters and AC-130 Spectre gunships, assets that Britain and France lack.
“If the United States provided resources to the current operation, so much the better,” the official said.