By Moutaz Ahmed.
Benghazi, 30 July:
An angry civilian crowd this evening ignored warning shots from Ansar Al Sharia militiamen and seized control . . .[restrict]of Benghazi’s Jalaa hospital which had been in the hands of militants since the end of June.
As several hundred predominantly young demonstrators approached the hospital Ansar guards fired first into the ground in front of them and then into the air. A witness told the Libya Herald that the shooting only appeared to enrage the crowd which continued to advance on the hospital’s main gate.
Ansar militiamen, it is unclear how many, were seen to withdraw towards neighbouring buildings while the triumphant young people tore down the Islamists’ black banner from above the gate and replaced it with the Libyan flag.
There was no attempt by the militiamen to regain their lost positions. The crowd heaved masonry and burning tyres into the roadway. The protest had started opposite the Tibesti Hotel, the future home of the new House of Representatives, which had been damaged by Ansar Al Sharia militants yesterday.
A crowd, which was originally no more than 50-strong, shouted slogans denouncing terrorism and calling for the army and the police to act. It later moved off along Jamal Abd Nasr Street and headed towards the Jalaa hospital, growing in size as it went.
The apparent ease with which the hospital appears to have been wrested, if even temporarily, from Ansar’s hands by unarmed demonstrators is in stark contrast to the resistance that the Islamists put up last month. On 14 July Saiqa special forces from Operation Dignity tried to drive them out. The attempt failed leaving seven dead and 35 injured.
Late this evening many of the demonstrators were still at the hospital. It was unclear if Operation Dignity forces were about to capitalise on Ansar’s evacuation and themselves move in. Attempts to contact Dignity spokesmen were unsuccessful. A manager at the hospital said that the management had asked all staff to report as soon as possible.
Calls are now going out on social media for this Friday to be a day of mass protest under the slogan “Benghazi Friday: We will not bow”. [/restrict]