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Beleaguered rebels fight on in Misrata

France 24 journalists followed rebel fighters in the western city of Misrata as they defended their own neighbourhoods from the government’s military offensive, now in its seventh week.

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In the city that has become the focal point of the brutal battle between government and rebel forces, Gaddafi’s fighters continue their seven-week siege. Misrata’s fate is being closely watched, as it is the last major town held by rebels in western Libya.

FRANCE 24’s correspondents on the ground shot exclusive footage of the weary but determined anti-Gaddafi fighters as they battled for control of their own neighbourhoods, street by street.

Wearing flip flops and tracksuits, civilians with no military training - including former students, dentists and construction workers - display revolutionary zeal.

“I am defending my town. I’m not going outside of Misrata. But when someone comes into your town to kill you, what you do? You should defend. Now we defend,” explained Mohamed, a Libyan rebel wearing a dress shirt with a broad collar and a hastily-wrapped scarf around his head.

The rebels do have some heavy weaponry, our correspondents shot footage of rebels moving through the devastated streets of Misrata in a 4x4 pick-up truck with a machine gun attached. The makeshift fighting force exchange fire with an unseen enemy in bombed out and bullet-hole ridden buildings just across the street.

The lack of coordination or a battle plan is obvious and the destruction is widespread.
The gunfights captured Saturday by FRANCE 24’s journalists was accompanied by reports of blasts around Misrata, as well claims by rebels that the city’s dairy was bombed by Gaddafi’s forces.

Hundreds of civilians are believed to have been killed since the government campaign to retake Misrata from rebels started back in early March.

In Paris, aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it had evacuated 99 people, including 64 war-wounded, by boat from Misrata on Friday to Tunisia.

Speaking of the dire conditions in the city, MSF doctor Morten Rostrup reported that hospitals were struggling to cope with the heavy inflow of patients.

"With the latest heavy bombardments in Misrata, the situation is worsening, as hospitals have to discharge patients before their treatment is completed in order to treat the latest wounded from the fighting," he added.

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