Shelling kills at least 5 in Libya's rebel-held Misrata

Gov't troops tell rebels to lay down arms in Benghazi; Gaddafi's son in interview: "In 48 hours everything will be over."

Libya rebels benghazi_311 reuters (photo credit: Goran Tomasevic / Reuters)
Libya rebels benghazi_311 reuters
(photo credit: Goran Tomasevic / Reuters)
TUNIS - An artillery bombardment on the rebel-held city of Misrata, east of the Libyan capital, has killed at least five people and wounded 11, a doctor at Misrata hospital told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday.
"We have received five bodies so far. We know more people have been killed though. Most of the casualties are coming from the eastern and the southern parts of Misrata," said the doctor, who gave his name as Muftah. Government forces began shelling the city earlier in the day, residents said.
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Muammar Gaddafi's loyalist forces also advanced on Libya's main rebel bastion of Benghazi on Wednesday as diplomatic efforts to stop him appeared to lose momentum.
"Everything will be over in 48 hours", Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam told France-based TV channel Euronews on Wednesday.
Asked about discussions among world powers to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, he replied: "The military operations are finished. In 48 hours everything will be over. Our forces are close to Benghazi. Whatever decision is taken, it will be too late."
Italy, a potential base for a no-fly zone proposed by Britain and France, ruled out military intervention in the oil-exporting country to support an increasingly vulnerable-looking rebellion against Gaddafi's 41-year-old rule.
"We cannot have war, the international community should not, does not want and cannot do it," Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in Rome.
As the Libyan army told people in Benghazi to lay down their arms, aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres said the violence had forced it to withdraw its staff from Benghazi and begin moving teams to Alexandria in Egypt.
"Security conditions have made it effectively impossible for medical teams to travel safely to areas where the fighting has created the greatest need," it said.
Residents in rebel-held Misrata, 200 km (130 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, Gaddafi's stronghold, said his forces had attacked the city using tanks and artillery.
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Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East
"Very heavy bombardments are taking place now from three sides. They are using heavy weapons including tanks and artillery ... They have yet to enter the town," said one resident, called Mohammed, by telephone.
A second resident, called Saadin, confirmed the account and said the attack began at 7:00 a.m. (0500 GMT).
Pro-Gaddafi leaflets in Benghazi
In Benghazi, where the revolt began in mid-February, residents said they had found some leaflets lying around in the city streets suggesting that if they gave up the fight against Gaddafi now, they would not be harmed or punished.
The leaflest accused rebels of being driven by al Qaida and high drugs, an allegation routinely leveled by the government against an uprising that was inspired by pro-democracy rebellions that toppled the Egyptian and Tunisian presidents.
Salah Ben-Saud, a retired undersecretary at the Agriculture Ministry, said in Benghazi that life in the town was normal and "pro-Gaddafi people have not really shown their face."
"There were rumors that he (Gaddafi) would try to take back Benghazi and that made people a bit nervous, but he didn't and people here don't think he would succeed anyway if he tried."
Thousands gathered in a square in Benghazi on Tuesday evening denouncing Gaddafi as a tyrant and throwing shoes and other objects at his image projected upside down on a wall.
Foreign powers have condemn Gaddafi's crackdown but show little appetite for action to support the revolt. A Gaddafi victory and a crackdown on protests in Bahrain could turn the tide in the region against pro-democracy movements.