Channel 4 News has obtained rare video from inside Zintan posted on a hardcore Libyan rebel Facebook page showing the scenes inside a hospital intensive care unit.
Zintan has been the scene of some of the most intense fighting so far of the Libya war. At least six people were killed in a bombardment by Gaddafi forces there during the day.
Graphic video footage on Facebook shows three injured men being treated for serious head wounds. The patients are bandaged and the sound of a hospital ventilator is clearly audible in the background.
Another posting from Al Manara today makes a desperate appeal for emergency medical supplies for Misrata.
At the top of the list under urgent non-medical items is a plea for baby milk “Babylac, Cerelac” and blankets.
It gives an indication of the desperate behind the scenes battle to save the lives of those injured in the fighting.
A detailed list of medicines and hospital provisions is requested including infusion sets, cannulas for drug infusions, blood testing kits, IV fluids, Anti-Tetanus Toxoid injections and Ketamine injections.
Hospital equipment is also urgently called for including chest tubes, catheters, defibrilators, craniotomy sets, trachiostomy seals, suction tubes, X-ray films of various different sizes and vascular surgery sets.
Meanwhile a similar scene has been playing out in rebel-held Misrata. One doctor said that pro-Gaddafi forces were encircling the city and shelling the main hospital and areas around it.
Witnesses had earlier said the tanks encircling the city had pulled back from their positions under air assault from international forces.
Hafiz Ghoga, the official spokesman for the rebel national council, said snipers from Gaddafi’s forces killed 16 people in Misrata on Wednesday.
In Ajdabiya Gaddafi’s tanks were positioned on both the eastern and western entrances to the city.
But pressure on Gaddafi himself remains severe, with Arabic television reporting that eight missiles had been fired by allied forces on Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli.
Although allied airstrikes on Libya appear to be having a major effect in the quelling of Muammar Gaddafi’s troops, opposition rebels face an uphill struggle, according to a military expert.
And whilst reports suggest the rebels have named Mahmoud Jibril as their interim prime minster, an international lawyer tells Channel 4 News that at least one of the rebels’ new interim ministers could in the future face questioning over past human rights abuses in Libya.
On Wednesday, allied strikes hit an air base south of the rebel-held Misrata where government forces are stationed, but Gaddafi loyalists continue to bombard unimpeded in Zintan, southwest of capital Tripoli and close to the Tunisian border.
Colonel Gaddafi’s air force now “no longer exists as a fighting force.” Air Vice-Marshal Greg Bagwell
Speaking at an air base in Italy, British Air Vice-Marshal Greg Bagwell said the allies could now operate with “near impunity” over the skies of Libya, adding that Colonel Gaddafi’s air force now “no longer exists as a fighting force.”
Nato commanders have confirmed that the alliance’s warships are now patrolling off Libya’s coast to enforce an arms embargo and Turkey has agreed to send five ships and a submarine to join a naval operation to enforce an arms embargo.
Although airstrikes are hitting their targets, and seemingly forcing pro-Gaddafi forces to reconcentrate their efforts away from the major rebel stronghold of Benghazi in the east, the rebels’ firepower is still sufficiently inferior to their enemies; meaning that what happens on the ground could prove to be a drawn out affair, an expert told Channel 4 News.
James Hackett of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said that although the rebels on the ground have seized munitions and are using them, Gaddafi’s troops will most likely have weapons which are more powerful and have a longer range, with the result that advancing on regime-controlled cities will prove difficult.
“It will be difficult for them to take towns from Gaddafi control now, for several reasons. Gaddafi’s heavy artillery are positioned on the outskirts of the cities, and it has already proved hard for rebels approaching Ajdabiya, because the long-range weapons push them back.
“Gaddafi’s people are also placing themsleves inside the towns, so the rebels won;t want to use their heavy machinery where civilians are around. But mainly, it’s unclear what the status of their communications are. It’s unlikely that rebel leaders in Benghazi are giving orders to rebels attempting to repel Gaddafi forces in Zintan.”
He added: “Communication is the key here. If the rebels do not have the equipment or for whatever reason fail to properly implement a chain of command, the stalemate between the forces could be long.”
Read more: strike against Gaddafi
Furthermore, smaller guns and poor communications systems may not be the rebels’ only problem. The longer the conflict goes on, the more likely internal divisions could appear within the rebel ranks, made up as they are of an amalgamation of former politicians in Gaddafi’s regime, ‘turned’ Gaddafi army men, and local businessmen and lawyers.
Rebels named Jabril, a reformer who was once involved in a project to establish a democratic state in Libya, as their new leader, Gaddafi’s former Interior Minister, Abdel Fatah Younis, has been orchestrating operations since his defection and remains influential.
As the rebel council’s translator Shamsiddin Abdulmolah told Time magazine: “Abdel Fatah Younis is like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [Gaddafi has placed a £2.5million bounty on his head], Khalifa Heftir is the commander in the field and Omar Hariri [a former general who led an unsuccessful revolt against Gaddafi in 1975] is the Defense Minister.”
Leading international lawyer and Director of the International Bar Association, Mark Ellis, warned that Younis could potentially be called upon to answer questions about human rights’ abuses during his tenure as Gaddafi’s right hand man.
In his role as interior minister, Younis would have been in charge of the country’s police, defence and immigration.
Human rights organisations have for years reported abuses in Libya: from the torture of political prisoners and others in Libya’s jail, to violent beatings by state police and the terrible treatment of African migrants.
Mr Ellis said that if rebels eventually overcome Gaddafi’s troops and form a new government, Younis could be called to answer questions about his role in Libya’s poor human rights record.
He said: “Without a doubt, given Libya’s human rights record and the high position he had in Gaddafi’s regime, he would be asked to answer serious as part of the International Crminal Court’s investigation into war. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is already a major issue within the rebel ranks: he was a very-high ranking member of that regime.
“Although the International Criminal Court’s investigation only has a remit of finding evidence of war crimes from February this year onwards, any evidence of former abuses and crimes would warrant referral and possibly separate investigations.”
Meanwhile, the US bombed the wreckage of an F-15 fighter jet that went down in Libya due to mechanical failure, a military has said.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the wreckage was bombed overnight “to prevent materials from getting into the wrong hands.”
On Wednesday, the Pentagon said the crew of the plane, part of the Western-led coalition drive against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, had been recovered safely.
The news comes after International Editor Lindsey Hilsum reportes that six villagers were shot and injured when a US helicopter landed to rescue a crew member from the crashed jet.