Libyan rebel official: Hospitals near crisis

June 28, 2011 at 9:57 PM
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BENGHAZI, Libya, June 28 (UPI) -- Libyan rebels seized a major munitions depot Tuesday after rousting dozens of government troops guarding it.

Rebels armed with small arms and artillery guns mounted on pickup trucks took control of the stockpile of ammunition, bombs and missiles located in the western Libya desert near Ghaaa after a half-hour battle that ended with them chasing off about 60 soldiers fighting for embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Times said some Arab network television analysts called the arms depot the largest in Africa, with ammunition stored in dozens of large concrete bunkers covered with dirt. Some of the bunkers had been damaged previously by NATO bombing but the rebels found plenty of munitions, some decades old, but few guns or launchers, the Times said.

The insurgents also seized dozens of military vehicles.

The rebels' advance came as the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, called Tuesday for Gadhafi's aides to executive arrest warrants for the arrest of Gadhafi, one of his sons and a brother-in-law.

"Gadhafi cannot retain power to keep attacking his victims," Luis Moreno-Ocampo said.

The rebels' health minister said hospitals in rebel-held eastern Libya were running out of supplies. Dr. Nagi Barakat said most emergency aid coming from abroad goes straight to the battle fronts, and if a new offensive broke out, hospitals would face a crisis, the BBC reported Tuesday.

On the cancer ward of a children's hospital in Benghazi, the rebel capital, most patients aren't getting the proper dosages of medicine because drugs are scarce and doctors divvy supplies to ensure every patient gets at least a little, Dr. Amina Bayou said.

"We try to divide the drugs between this patient and that patient. It's not good," she said. "We are treating more than 200 children. We ask parents to go to Egypt to buy medicines and when they bring them back, we divide them up like parceling out food."

At Hawari General Hospital, Director Ezzedin Benomran estimated more than 20 patients have died since February because of a lack of supplies. The physician said the supply of anesthetics is so low the hospital closed nine of its 12 operating rooms and performs only emergency operations, the BBC reported.

Barakat said cash donated by foreign governments and non-government organizations isn't keeping up with the demands of all the hospitals in a city such as Benghazi, which services the entire population of eastern Libya.

Rebel leaders said they would pay for new supplies but cash also is in short supply.

Gadhafi has shrugged off word of the arrest warrants accusing him and his family members of crimes against humanity during the first two weeks of the popular uprising that led to a NATO bombing campaign, The New York Times reported.

Gadhafi's government, which isn't among the 115 countries that recognize the court, denounced the ruling. The Justice Ministry was quoted as saying the court "is a tool of the Western world to prosecute leaders in the Third World."

The warrants raise the issue of how the court could gain custody of Gadhafi, the Times said. Among possible scenarios are capture by rebel forces who would turn him over to the Hague or expand NATO's airstrike role to include the arrest of the three Libyans. However, any operations to track down the three men would require revising NATO's policy of limiting alliance actions to aerial attacks, the Times said.

Justice Minister Mohammed al-Gamudi said the warrant is a cover for what he characterized as NATO's attempts to assassinate Gadhafi, Primedia Broadcasting Eyewitness News in South Africa reported.

Among other things, the warrant obliges countries that recognize the court to arrest Gadhafi if he arrives in their countries, including South Africa where President Jacob Zuma expressed disappointment with the ICC ruling.

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