Tripoli, Libya (CNN) — An air strike targeted the main road heading into the opposition-controlled town of Ras Lanuf on Monday, the latest incident in the air and ground assault by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi aimed at crushing the uprising.
Earlier, an air strike hit about 5 kilometers southeast of Ras Lanuf.
Planes flew over the area, and opposition forces fired anti-aircraft guns in their direction. Some families fled the eastern Libyan oil town to get away from the situation.
Gadhafi’s forces seemed to make headway in the city of Bin Jawad, where the Libyan army appeared to have control Monday. The city was hotly contested over the weekend, with at least five people killed Sunday, medical sources said.to leave Libya
Anti-government protesters are seeking the ouster of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi after nearly 42 years of ruling the country — the kind of revolution that was seen in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. But unlike in those countries, the uprising has turned into warfare.
CNN’s Ben Wedeman, just outside Ras Lanouf, heard someone say, “We’ll capture (Gadhafi), put him on top of this car and drive all around Libya. Every Libyan will get one shot.”
With no clear end to the deadly clashes in sight, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a new special envoy to Libya to discuss the crisis with officials in Tripoli, the United Nations said in a statement Monday.
Abdelilah Al-Khatib, a former foreign minister of Jordan, was appointed to “undertake urgent consultations with the authorities in Tripoli and in the region on the immediate humanitarian situation as well as the wider dimensions of the crisis,” according to the U.N. statement.
“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the fighting in western Libya, which is claiming large numbers of lives and threatens even more carnage in the days ahead,” the statement said. “He notes that civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence, and calls for an immediate halt to the Government’s disproportionate use of force and indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets.”
On Sunday, opposition forces claimed a major victory, managing to block an onslaught by Gadhafi’s troops and maintain control of the key city of Misrata, an eyewitness said.
Using machine guns, sticks and anything else they could find, crowds successfully repelled Gadhafi militias armed with tanks and heavy artillery, the witness said.
“The will and the determination and dedication that people are showing here on the ground, it just makes you speechless,” he said.
A doctor at Central Misrata Hospital said 42 people were killed — 17 from the opposition and 25 from the pro-Gadhafi forces — and that 85 people were wounded in the fighting, which spilled into the city’s outskirts. The youngest victim, a 3-year-old, was killed by direct fire, the doctor said.
Witnesses and other sources are not being named for their own safety.
Humanitarian and medical aid to Misrata, in central Libya, has been blocked, U.N. emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos said in a statement Sunday. She urged authorities “to provide access without delay to allow aid workers to help save lives.”
After reports of the opposition successfully fighting off pro-Gadhafi forces in Misrata, Libyan state TV showed a graphic — in both Arabic and English — saying that “strict orders have been issued to the armed forces not to enter cities taken by terrorist gangs, who took civilians as human shields and threatened to slaughter the inhabitants of those cities.” The report cited “military sources.”
Conflicting reports emerged over the weekend about who controlled what cities.
Throngs of Gadhafi supporters filled Tripoli’s Green Square on Sunday, with some insisting they were celebrating the government’s victory in Misrata. A government official said Gadhafi’s regime was victorious in Ras Lanuf and in Zawiya as well — though rebel fighters appeared in control of Ras Lanuf and said they had prevented pro-government forces from taking Zawiya.
Libyan state TV also claimed that the government had gained control of the eastern port city of Tobruk. But witnesses in Tobruk said the city was still under opposition control.
Throughout the turmoil, which began February 15, witnesses in Tripoli have described the government using all sorts of methods to drum up crowds, including forcibly dragging people to them while keeping anti-Gadhafi demonstrators off the streets.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban spoke with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kasa on Sunday, appealing for an end to hostilities. Ban discussed the plight of migrant workers and called for unhindered access by humanitarian organizations and suggested the immediate dispatch of a humanitarian assessment team to Tripoli, which Kasa agreed to, according to a statement from the United Nations.
Death toll estimates have ranged from more than 1,000 to as many as 2,000, and the international community has been pondering strategies on how to end the violence and remove the Gadhafi regime.
On Sunday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “We continue to press for Gadhafi to step down, and we will work with the international community to support the legitimate ambitions of the Libyan people.”
Benjamin Barber, a fellow at the New York-based Demos think tank who had worked closely with the Gadhafi Foundation, told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that he thought Gadhafi, his son Saif and their supporters would likely “fight to the death” — meaning a prolonged war, compared to the relatively quick and peaceful political transition that happened in Egypt and Tunisia.
Even if Gadhafi is somehow ousted, Barber predicted the violence could continue as tribes duke it out for supremacy in a nation that has few significant public institutions that could fill a potentially chaotic void.
Over the weekend, opposition-controlled radio announced that the country’s only legitimate representative body was the National Transitional Council, a group with 31 representatives for most of the regions in Libya. Former Justice Minister Mustafa Abdeljeleel, whom the council said had tried to resign from Gadhafi’s government several times, was announced as the council’s new leader.
The council also named a representative for military affairs and established a military council to oversee the “liberation” of Libya and reconstruct the armed forces, according to the radio announcement. The council said its main missions are to represent all of Libya internationally, liberate the country, draft a constitution and hold elections.
Gadhafi’s government has been reviled across the globe for violence against civilians, and the International Criminal Court has launched an investigation of Gadhafi, some of his sons and other leaders for possible crimes against humanity.
The fierce fighting has sparked the flight of Libyans and foreigners out of Libya, with nations across the globe scrambling to help people leave.
About 200,000 people have fled Libya with nearly equal numbers going to Tunisia and Egypt, the U.N. refugee agency has said.
But not everyone has been able to get out. On Monday, several hundred expatriates from Mali gathered outside Mali’s embassy in Tripoli, seeking assistance in getting out of the Libya. Many were migrant workers who said they no longer have any work, though the situation in Tripoli appeared to be calmer in recent days.
Some of the migrant workers tried to cross into Algeria — which shares a border with Mali — but were refused by Algerian officials.
Meanwhile, Agostino Miozzo, a European Union representative on a fact-finding mission in Libya, said at a news conference in Tripoli Monday that his mission was to make sure all citizens from EU member countries are able to be evacuated.