Gaddafi declares ceasefire but regime's bombs keep falling
Published 19/03/2011 | 05:00
THE WARPLANE streaked across the sky, emerging through low clouds as its missiles landed, orange flames rising under dark plumes of smoke.
A few minutes later came shattering volleys of artillery shells and rockets, announcing that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces were moving forward.
This was Libya's eastern front line, two hours and six minutes after the regime in Tripoli had officially declared a ceasefire following the UN resolution authorising military action in Libya.
In the west, tanks from Colonel Gaddafi's forces rolled into the town of Misrata, the last remaining pocket of resistance in the region, where forces shelled homes, hospitals and a mosque, killing six people, according to local doctors who pleaded that a blockade be lifted, allowing supplies of medicine and food to get in.
Last night, there were reports that instead of withdrawing from cities they had occupied, as US President Barack Obama had demanded, Colonel Gaddafi's forces were advancing further towards Benghazi, the eastern rebel stronghold.
The day had started with the promise of a new beginning Libya. People in what remains of 'Free Libya' celebrated the UN resolution, which they hoped would be their deliverance from Colonel Gaddafi's threat that they would be shown "no mercy".
Then came the announcement that he had ordered a cessation of hostilities and offered negotiations. But there was little joy at the news. Few in the crowds thronging Benghazi believed that peace was about to break out.
Many queued to implore the international community, which had acted at last, not to accept at face value the words of a man who had killed and persecuted so many of his fellow citizens.
What, they asked, would be the fate of those already in the clutches of Colonel Gaddafi's henchmen, facing retribution in the towns and cities recaptured from the revolution in brutal offensives over the past few weeks?
"There have been men dragged away from their wives and children on the words of masked informers. Would they simply be forgotten?" asked Hania Ferousi, a university lecturer.
Ninety six kilometres away in Sultan, where the retreating fighters of the revolution were making a stand, the war continued.
Eight were killed in Zuwaytina after leaving their house at Ajdabiya, under regime control following days of fierce fighting. The bodies of four adults and three children lay by the side of the road. Further on, propped up in the front passenger seat of a battered black Daiwa saloon, was an elderly man, still, mouth open as if he was asleep.
Faiz al-Beidi, who was driving by in his pick-up truck, tried to retrieve the corpses but had to flee when regime soldiers arrived. "They were just firing, at everyone, for no reason," he said. "We are Muslims, I wanted to see these poor people were given proper burial, but they stopped even that." (© Independent News Service)