Human shield at Gaddafi’s home
Even as the allied intervention began, a group of foreign journalists were bused on a rare visit inside Col Muammar Gaddafi's compound—a labyrinth of concrete barracks, fortified walls and barbed wire designed to deter potential military coups.
There, hundreds of supporters offered themselves up as human shields, cheering to newly minted dance songs about their adoration for their leader. "House by house, alley by alley," the catchiest song went, quoting a Gaddafi speech. "Disinfect the germs from each house and each room."
The crowd included many women and children, and some said they had family in Colonel Gaddafi's forces. They said they had come to protect Colonel Gaddafi's compound from bombing by volunteering to be shields.
"If they want to hit Muammar Gaddafi, they must hit us because we are all Muammar Gaddafi," said Ghazad Muftah , a 52-year-old widow of a soldier from the Warfalla tribe, who said she was there with her six grown children. At least one person attending the rally spoke out against Colonel Gaddafi in a recent interview — a double-agent phenomenon that appears common among Libyan demonstrators for and against the government.
In Tajoura—a neighbourhood near the capital that has been a hotbed of anti-Qaddafi unrest—one resident had complained earlier in the day that despite the announced no-fly zone, Libyan Air Force jets could be heard taking off from the nearby bases, presumably headed toward the eastern front with the rebels.
"Our suffering is greater than anyone can imagine," he said. "Anyone who dares go outside is either arrested or shot dead.
"Food is decreasing, there is no tap water, and electricity comes and goes," he added. "The hospitals cannot really offer much treatment anymore because there are no medicines. There is no milk for the children."
It was unclear Saturday night whether the missile strikes had hit the air base, but in the city of Misurata—the last major rebel holdout in the west—one person said residents were cheering the sound of airstrikes. The Gaddafi forces had continued their siege Saturday, including the cutoff of water and electricity, he said, and Gaddafi gunmen continued to fire into the city. Speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect his family, he said: "The airstrikes sound good to the Libyan people."
But analysts have questioned what Western powers will do if the Libyan leader digs in, especially since they do not believe they would be satisfied with a de facto partition which left rebels in the east and Gadhafi running a rump state in the west.
"It's going to be far less straightforward if Gaddafi starts to move troops into the cities, which is what he has been trying to do for the past 24 hours," said Marko Papic at the STRATFOR global intelligence group.
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