By Maha Ellawati.
Benghazi, 6 December:
Forces from the first battalion of Benghazi’s Libya Shield brigade (Libya Shield 1) began protection of Al-Jala . . .[restrict]hospital yesterday, some ten weeks after it was abandoned by the Ansar Al-Sharia brigade, the group previously responsible for the site’s security.
Ansar Al-Sharia were driven off the premises by demonstrators on the night of 21 September, following a massive march through Benghazi by residents demanding an end to militia rule in the city. The “Save Benghazi Friday” rally came ten days after the fatal attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three of his staff. Members of Ansar Al-Sharia were and remain prime suspects in the case.
During the interceding period, security at Al-Jala hospital notably deteriorated, with frequent attacks taking place on both staff and patients. Intimidation and violence directed against doctors has been a particular problem in post-Qaddafi Libya.
Assaults against them have been known both at the hands of relatives of patients who target them when procedures go wrong, but also by former revolutionaries who accuse them of failing to save their colleagues, or else of working in some way for the former regime. Often, the attacks can be for more obscure reasons, or else appear to have no reason whatsoever.
In the case of Al-Jala hospital, the situation became so bad that doctors and other staff went on strike at the end of November, citing intolerable levels of verbal abuse and physical violence.
The strike led to the hospital being temporarily closed, and Libya Shield 1 agreed to move in after pleas from Benghazi residents for them to take on the job. [/restrict]