By Maha Suliman and Adam Ali.
Benghazi 11 November 2014:
There were clashes and airstrikes again today in central Benghazi and . . .[restrict]several other districts as Libyan National Army (LNA) forces continued to battle with Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC) for control of the city.
Saqr Adam Geroushi, the commander of Operation Dignity air forces fighting under the banner of the Libyan National Army (LNA), told the Libya Herald that aircraft in his command had carried out bombings over the Laithi, Sabri and Garyounis districts.
Geroushi claimed the LNA had been particularly successful in airstrikes on the BRSC base of Rafallah Hassi Brigade near to Gwarsha. He said his warplanes had destroyed a large shipment of weapons and ammunition which arrived to the brigade headquarters from Helif.
He also claimed the LNA air forces had sunk a ship on its approach to Benghazi’s seaport. Geroushi said the ship was carrying weapons and ammunition. Pro-government forces have been engaged in over a week of fighting around Benghazi port. The facility is of crucial strategic importance as it has been used regularly by BRSC to resupply their positions.
Fighting has continued near the port and in nearby Sabri and Suq Al-Hout. Yesterday, LNA spokesman Mohamed Al-Hejazi told this newspaper that government forces had completely surrounded the downtown Suq Al-Hout area. He said after seven days of fighting there Ansar Al-Sharia had begun raiding homes for supplies in the area and stealing petrol from parked cars in the streets.
Helicopter fired on BRSC positions in Sabri where Ansar Al-Sharia had reportedly deployed a number of snipers on the roofs of residential buildings. Geroushi explained that the LNA had faced difficulty in the area after many residents refused to leave their homes. With the presence of civilians still on the ground, he said, the military was unable to properly take advantage of its unchallenged air superiority.
Today the LNA ordered residents remaining in Suq Al-Hout, Sabri and Bel Awn to evacuate their homes. Those few remaining in Sabri said soldiers had come to their buildings and implored them to leave.
Elsewhere in the city clashes have continued in Laithi, Hawari, Gwarsha and Garyounis. In Garyounis, Geroushi explained that Ansar Al-Sharia had also taken to raiding nearby homes in search of supplies.
One resident of western Fuwayhat said the cost to the civilian population from the fighting not just in his district but across the city had been devastating. Almost all his neighbours had gone – he had taken his wife and family elsewhere for safety – and there were fews than a a dozen left. He also claimed 250 homes in Benghazi belonging to opponents of Operation Dignity and the LNA had been set on fire and said that young men believed to be supporters of Ansar Al-Sharia were still regularly being killed with impunity by pro-government vigilante forces.
Meanwhile, a clinic in Hawari for psychiatric illnesses had to be evacuated yesterday because of fierce fighting nearby. There was some confusion with reports that staff at Hawari hospital had been forced to leave. However, the spokesman for the hospital, Hani Araibi, explained that Hawari’s emergency departments had remained open. Other wards at the hospital have been closed for some time.
Araibi said the hospital employed a number of foreign medical professionals and staff from Egypt, the Phillipines, Bangladesh and India. He said because these staff lived at the hospital many had decided to leave but that the medical centre’s administrative team had stayed on and doctors were still treating patients in the difficult conditions.
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