Since February, the Libyan city of Misrata has been under siege by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. The only lifeline to the city comes from ships chartered by humanitarian organization like the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the World Food Organization. These ships have ferried thousands of tons of food, health personnel, medical supplies, and other humanitarian material into the city, often at great risk to themselves.
Pro-Gaddafi forces have made multiple attempts to cut Misrata’s sea-based lifeline. The harbor area of the city has suffered repeated artillery strikes since the siege began. Furthermore, last Wednesday Gaddafi’s forces launched a rocket attack against a ferry chartered by the IOM to bring food and medical supplies into the city, and evacuate migrant workers still stranded there. Luckily, the ship — which carries a makeshift hospital — was able to leave port without serious damage.
Now there are accusations that Gaddafi is employing a new tactic. According to Libyan rebels and at least one aid worker in the city, pro-Gaddafi forces are using helicopters to drop naval mines in the harbor in an attempt to prevent any ships — including those carrying humanitarian supplies — from docking. Worse still, the helicopters are allegedly being disguised with Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems.
He said the choppers had been disguised as humanitarian aircraft carrying the emblems of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
“They had Red Crescent and Red Cross markers so that anyone who sees them thinks it is for humanitarian aid,” Fortiya said.
NATO has confirmed that unknown helicopters were observed flying over the harbor and came under fire from rebel forces on Thursday and that no humanitarian flights had been scheduled for that day. However, they could not confirm that the helicopter were marked with Red Crosses.
If true — and at this point nothing Gaddafi does surprises me — it would be just one more blatant violation of international humanitarian law by the dictator.
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