Monday, May 9, 2011

Food and fuel are running low in the besieged city of Misrata, where government shelling and rocket strikes on the vital port have slowed humanitarian deliveries, a rebel official said Sunday. Misrata's supplies of "basic foodstuffs" might last about a month, and fuel for two to three weeks, Saddoun Misurati, an opposition spokesman, told reporters in Benghazi. 

 Forces loyal to Muammar Gadhafi have been laying siege to Misrata for almost two months.  Pro-regime troops on the outskirts have in recent days stepped up shelling and rocketing of Misrata, slowing relief efforts via the city's only lifeline. NATO has also accused Gadhafi's forces of mining the harbor in an attempt to halt aid.
According to the spokesman, more than 100,000 people have fled Misrata since the siege began,  leaving perhaps 200,000. He said more than 1,000 people had died in fighting there. That figure and others he gave could not be verified. Last week, government forces bombarded a key fuel depot in Misrata, causing a massive fireball and destroying three tanks containing gasoline and diesel. The strike did not wipe out reserves, Misurati said, because the insurgents had taken unspecified precautions.
While in Syria, a military crackdown on Syria’s seven-week uprising escalated Sunday, with reinforcements sent to two cities, more forces deployed in a southern town and nearly all communications severed to besieged locales, activists and human rights groups said. Fourteen people were killed in the city of Homs, they said, and hundreds were arrested. 
The breadth of the assault seemed to represent an important turn in an uprising that has posed the gravest challenge to the 11-year-long rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Though officials have continued to hint at reforms, and even gingerly reached out to some dissidents last week, the escalation of the crackdown seemed to signal the government’s intent to end the uprising by force. 
Since the beginning of the uprising, Syria has barred most foreign journalists, and many news accounts have relied on human rights groups and networks of activists inside Syria. But in past days, those activists have complained that they have been almost entirely unable to speak with people in Homs and Baniyas, the most besieged places. Even satellite phones that protest organizers had smuggled across Syria were not working. “It seems that they’ve gotten better in tracking satellite mobile phones,” said Wissam Tarif, executive director of Insan, a Syrian human rights group.

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