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Gadhafi’s Troops Shell Rebel Cities as Officials Pursue Diplomatic Resolutions

April 1, 2011 at 6:33 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to Libya, where forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi shelled opposition troops in several key cities. But the Gadhafi government has been hit with high-level defections this week, and there have been reports that more will come.

Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reports from Benghazi, the rebel-held city where there was talk of a cease-fire.

LINDSEY HILSUM: They gathered in Benghazi today to thank the coalition and show support for the uprising. The rebels can’t win on the battlefield, and a deal with Col. Gadhafi is unacceptable to most here.

Their best hope is that defections will weaken the regime, so that those around the Libyan leader negotiate an end to his rule. For the first time, a U.N. envoy flew from Tripoli to Benghazi to see the National Council, trying to arrange a cease-fire and the protection of civilians, as outlined in the Security Council resolution.

Today, it emerged that Mohammed Ismail, a close associate of Gadhafi’s son Saif, has been in London talking to British officials. But it’s not clear if he’s trying to find a way to keep the family in power or a way out. The besieged city of Misrata suffered an intense artillery bombardment today.

Already, 400 civilians are believed to have died, and more than 1,000 have been injured. A rebel representative who escaped, arriving in Benghazi by boat, told me the situation is desperate.

SULEIMAN FORTIA, Misrata National Council member: We need NATO — to actually to solve the problem of the tanks — the tanks, and all these snipers on the — on the top of the roads.

LINDSEY HILSUM: But how can NATO solve the problem of tanks and snipers? Because, if they bomb those tanks and snipers in the city, civilians will be killed.

SULEIMAN FORTIA: These tanks are actually in the middle of big roads, and I’m sure there is a technology with which they can only shooting these tanks.

LINDSEY HILSUM: But as fighting continues in the east, civilians are already being injured. Seven, including at least three children from the same family, were reportedly killed in a coalition airstrike near Brega on Wednesday. That’s what the coalition has been trying hard to avoid, hence the renewed urgency for a diplomatic, not a military, solution.