By Moutaz Ahmed and Aimen Amzein.
Benghazi, 14 July 2014:
Seven people were . . .[restrict]killed and 35 injured in clashes at Benghazi’s Jalaa Hospital this morning as Operation Dignity forces unsuccessfully attempted to remove Ansar Al-Sharia from the premises.
Spokesman for Operation Dignity Mohammed Al-Hejazi told the Libya Herald that the attack mounted by Saiqa Special Forces under the direction of Operation Dignity began early this morning. He said, however, that the assault had been pushed back by Ansar forces which had responded by firing anti-aircraft guns and mortars randomly into the surrounding residential area.
He claimed the Islamist brigade had taken up positions in a nearby school and placed snipers on a number of roofs in the Salmani district where the hospital is situated.
Hejazi said Operation Dignity had not given up on the hospital and still intended to drive Ansar Al-Sharia out although he would not say when. He insisted that the group was a “terrorist organisation” which had put the lives of Benghazi’s residents at risk.
A source close to negotiations for the peaceful withdrawal of Ansar from the hospital said he felt progress had been made in talks before today’s attack. Over the past weeks, Benghazi mediators have engaged with all parties involved in the crisis with input from government ministers and Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni. However there have been few signs of an end to the deadlock.
The source said all but one of the hospital’s patients had been evacuated from the premises. The patient in question was in intensive care for serious burns and could not be moved because of the risk of infection, he said.
Jalaa Hospital has been under the control of Ansar Al-Sharia for three weeks after troops from the Islamist group assumed protection of the premises in the absence of its normal Benghazi Joint Security Room guards.
The effective closure of Jalaa Hospital has placed massive strain on the only other hospital to remain fully open in the city, Benghazi Medical Centre. Jalaa Hospital in particular was the city’s main centre for casualties of road traffic accidents.