Anti-government protesters in Libya are trading their protest signs for rifles as Moammar Gadhafi mounts fresh attacks against his own people, vowing to never step down.
Protesters in eastern Libya, joined by army units that have defected, are planning to free Tripoli from Gadhafi’s revolutionary guards and mercenaries, who are controlling the capital.
A national council formed in eastern Libya on Sunday, which has been freed from Gadhafi’s control over the past week, has pledged to free other parts of Libya.
“We will help liberate other Libyan cities, in particular Tripoli, through our national army, our armed forces, of which part have announced their support for the people,” Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman for the new National Libyan Council, told Al Jazeera.
On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a draft resolution that imposes additional sanctions on Libya as violence continued in some parts of the country.
The 15-member U.N. Council agreed to impose an arms embargo on Libya as well as freeze the financial assets and economic resources of Gadhafi, his family members, and top aides, including restricting their international travel.
The U.N. resolution was adopted after two weeks of uprising in the North African country that left hundreds dead.
“The text sends a strong message that gross violations of basic human rights will not be tolerated, and that those responsible for grave crimes will be held accountable,” said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement.
But not everyone agreed with the Council’s sweeping measures.In a televised speech in Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the U.N. sanctions “would force the Libyan people, who are already up against hunger and violence, into a more desperate situation,” Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported.
“We call on the international community to act with conscience … not out of oil concerns,” the prime minister added.
The Council also referred Libya to the International Criminal Court, saying that renewed attacks against its citizens may amount to “crimes against humanity.”
Opposition protests have already swept across the eastern part of the country, defeating government forces there, while Gadhafi and his backers control the capital.
The United States has for the first time called on Gadhafi to leave the country, as “he has lost confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence,” according to a U.S. State Department statement on Saturday.
“When a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now.”
Given the current security situation in the country, Washington has suspended all U.S. Embassy operations in Libya, stating that the United States would continue to assist Americans leaving Libya. Canada and Britain also suspended their diplomatic missions.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on Feb. 26 that security forces loyal to Gadhafi fired upon anti-government protesters and Egyptian migrant workers in the western city of Zawiyah as they tried to flee the country on Feb. 25. Some Egyptians told HRW that government security forces fired on them because they refused military orders to stay in their homes.
One migrant worker said that he had seen around 3,000 people protesting on the main square of the city, as well as a group of men carrying several bodies.
According to HRW, although opposition forces have taken control of much of the city, government forces have seized surrounding areas along checkpoints set up on the outskirts of the city.
At the same time, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which reports on issues pertaining to humanitarian aid being organized by Egypt and Tunisia across their borders, reported that about 100,000 people had fled the violence for Tunisia and Egypt in the past week.
HRW said that there were still a few thousand angry Egyptians stranded at the Tunisian border, waiting for their government to evacuate them.
“How come other governments have evacuated their nationals with boats and planes, but here across the border, there is no one waiting for us? We don’t even have our cell phones to call our families to tell them we are OK,” one Egyptian migrant worker told HRW.