By Noora Ibrahim and Moutaz Ahmed.
Benghazi, 1 August 2014:
Operation Dignity forces say they will protect demonstrators protesting against Ansar Al-Sharia in . . .[restrict]Benghazi late this evening. Calls to join a mass protest today entitled “Benghazi Friday: We will not bow.” have been circulating on social media for the past two days. However, it is not clear how much power Operation Dignity has on the streets to protect anyone.
Ansar has itself now declared on its Facebook site said that it controls the city.
Certainly a large swathe of the city was this morning effectively in the hands of Ansar and its allies, the most important of which are Libya Shield No 1 Brigade and 17 February Brigade.
Following their victory on Tuesday when they forced Saiqa to pull out of its Buatni headquarters and withdraw to Banina Airbase, Ansar and company have been consolidating their positions. Having been temporarily ejected by an angry crowd from the Jalaa Hospital on Wednesday, they reoccupied it on yesterday when they also set up new road blocks and checkpoints in Gwarsha. Last night, they set up road blocks around Hawari district, which decorated with Ansar flags they now man, their own faces covered so no one can recognise them. In Hawari, they have completely destroyed the city’s main police station, home to the Security Directorate.
In contrast, what cannot be seen across the city are the police, the army and Saiqa.
But there are promises.
“We are with parliament, the army and the police”, Air Force Brigadier-General Saqr Geroushi, the commander of Operation Dignity’s air forces, told the Libya Herald today, insisting that his forces would protect this evening’s demonstrators.
“We will strike any vehicles coming to Benghazi to stop the protest,” he said. “They give us hope.”
Gerushi warned civilians not to allow anyone from Ansar or their allies to use their homes or other premises for any purpose whatsoever. “We will destroy them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Benghazi Medical Centre says it has 40 unidentified bodies, mainly of fighters, and is appealing for families to come and identity them and take them away for burial.