Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Al Jazeera Report rom Benghazi

Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley reports from Benghazi: “I think [Gaddafi's statements about marching on Benghazi shortly are] probably talk, we don’t get a feeling here that there is any looming threat to Benghazi. We’re not hearing the sound of his aircraft in action, we’re not hearing any artillery, we’re not hearing any defences going up. So we’ve heard a lot of bravado and a lot of talk about ‘liberation’, but that’s probably for public consumption and depending on which side of the fence you’re on … people here are still concerned about a fight that’s going about 160km down the road in Ajdabiyah. It’s not always clear exactly what’s going on but we do understand that the rebels … are still in control, but there’s still heavy fighting going on around it. 

Benghazi poses a completely different kind of target for Gaddafi and his forces and some are questioning whether or not he has the reinforcements and he has the supply chain necessary at this stage to make any kind of credible threat against the city. This is a city of 800,000 people. A lot of them are armed now, unlike February the 17th when the rebellion began, most of these people have looted weapons from army barracks and depots, and they are well-armed. And they know there’s not many places left for them to go anymore. So unless they run to Egypt, this is going to be their last stand.” When asked what the mood is like in Benghazi, Birtley said: “I think there is … underneath the surface … a slight note of apprehension, there’s a kind of fear because a couple of weeks ago the rebellion seemed to be in full flow, and now its lost its momentum and they’re coming backwards rather than going forwards. 

And people are mindful of what this man Gaddafi can do, they’ve lived 42 years and they’ve suffered at his hands. Especially in Benghazi. But also, there’s a steely determination here that this is their home, this is their life, this is their future. So these people will not be easy to shift. We have seen scenes of if you like the ‘cowboy fighters’, these are the basic fighters who have been streaming away from the front lines at the first sign of bombardment and heavy fighting, but there’s still a steely core of people who are prepared to fight and are still in those front lines.

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