By Noora Ibrahim.
Benghazi, 14 October 2014:
Scenes of panic buying, empty shops and long petrol queues have been replicated across Benghazi this . . .[restrict]evening to the sound of sporadic gunfire and bombing as the city anticipates a day of widespread violence tomorrow.
Residents from Laithi, Shibna, Shara Al-Hijaz and Buhdeima, where the worst fighting is expected, have already begun to flee eastwards to Marj or elsewhere. There are reportedly large numbers of Ansar Al-Sharia supporters at checkpoints all along the road from Benghazi to Suluq.
The central district of Buhdeima, where clashes have already broken out, was expected to heed calls by pro-government forces to take to the streets with their weapons. However Laithi and Ras Obaida, where pro dignity demonstrations have also been planned are firmly in control of Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council (BRSC).
It is estimated that as many as 45,000 to 50,000 supporters of the Shoura Council are in and around Benghazi. Operation Dignity has asked its supporters to arrest those working with the Islamist coalition and hand them over.
The forces led by former General Khalifa Hafter have called on Benghazi residents to help them as they reenter the city tomorrow in whatever way they can. Everyone else has been told to stay indoors.
Despite the prelude to the violence, violence and fighting has continued in Benghazi throughout the day. Two members of Operation Dignity’s forces, Salim Al-Hassi, a Salafist, and Feisal Nasser Al-Umami were killed in fighting in Buatni today, Dignity spokesman Mohammed Al-Hejazi told the Libya Herald.
He said that BRSC convoys attempting to reinforce Ansar Al-Sharia positions in Gwarsha had been bombed by Operation Dignity and destroyed. Hejazi added that airstrikes had yet again been carried out on 17 February Brigade’s sprawling central Benghazi camp.
Last night, shells fell on Benghazi University and the residential area of Al-Masekin. There were no casualties reported as a result of the indiscriminate firing which is believed to have originated from BRSC positions.
Targeted killings by roving gunmen have also continued in the city. Intisar Al-Ojali and her 17-year-old son were shot and killed this afternoon. It appears the young man was targeted in the shooting, although the reason is unknown, and Intisar was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. The son died instantly. She died later of her wounds after being caught in the crossfire, Hejazi explained.
Yesterday, Benghazi Security Directorate Colonel Zakariya Bujaldine was killed near his home in Belawn, medical staff at Benghazi Medical Centre (BMC) said. One of his neighbours, reportedly an elderly man, was also shot during the attack but is now said to be in a stable condition.
Four bodies have been recovered from Gwarsha and Buatni as the unknown casualties of previous battles continue to emerge from the rubble of Benghazi. Ahmed Saad Al-Jarari and Abdel Aziz Masoud Al-Barghati believed to have been killed in May were recovered from Buatni. The two others found in Gwarsha have not yet been identified. [/restrict]