by Ben Gilbert
Fighting continued today in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have been shelling and attacking Libya's third largest city for weeks. The city is isolated in the western part of the country.
Turkey negotiated an aid mission to the city, and yesterday a ship picked up sick and wounded citizens. On its way back it stopped in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, in Libya's east.
The Turkish ferry "Ankara" arrived in Benghazi's port to a warm welcome. Militiamen waved Kalashnikov rifles in the air with one hand and make the "V for victory" sign with the other. The men on the ship, some bandaged and waving crutches, chant "with our blood we die for your Benghazi" to which the crowd on the pier responds with "with our blood for you we die Misrata."
There were 230 badly wounded victims of the battle for Misrata. The hold, usually reserved for cars, was transformed into an intensive care unit. IV drips are hung from the ship's hull, connected to men laying on deck chairs converted to hospital beds. Many suffer from bullet, shrapnel and blast wounds. Half a dozen are missing legs. 50 year old diving mechanic Ahmed Ramadanis lay on a makeshift bed on the floor, his leg wrapped in a bandage and braced with a metal stabilizing rod.
"I was shot with a tank, my left leg was broken, was completely damaged, the bone was completely damaged," Ramadinis said.
Ramadinis said he was injured three weeks ago while taking photos of the tank as it fired on nearby buildings. Then, it hit the building he was in. He was only able to stay in the hospital for three days, because it was full.
"The situation in Misrata is really horrible. You'd never believe what's happening. Snipers everywhere, tanks are shooting the people, the people were killed in the street, you can't give them a hand, because if you come near you will get shot," Ramadinis said. "But the situation in Misrata, it's getting more worse, and more worse, and Gaddafi he will never stop killing us. He want to kill everybody in Misrata. Why, I don't know. It's more than crazy — it's something I've never seen in my life.
Ramadini groaned as a doctor cleaned his wound with antiseptic ointment. Next to him, a 32 year old steel worker Khlaled Ali. He was shot in both legs by what he said was a sniper as he walked down a street in Misrata.
"The first shot was in right leg, and second shot in left leg," Ali said. "And the second bullet did a lot of damage to my left knee, and it got infected. My temperature was go very high and go down, and my blood pressure wasn't normal at all, and few days I was like this."
Infection is one of the big dangers here. 28 year old general surgeon Hatem Bernawi cleaned a wound from a bullet that missed one patient's spinal column by fractions of an inch. He said the patients here are severely wounded but stable. Which is actually better than many he's seen.
"I've seen around 300 or more dying in Benghazi, so I've seen the worst. Here is not the worst. I've seen people without heads. I've seen people without lower limbs. Now, for me, doesn't matter, just a patient. My hear has become very, very strong," Bernawi said.
Dr. Bernawi said he rarely treated bullet wounds before the February 17 revolution uprising in eastern Libya. Now, it's a daily occurrence. He half-joked that he'd gone from being a general surgeon to a combat surgeon.
Outside on the pier, an ambulance brought more wounded from Benghazi, around 60 people, to be taken to Turkey. Families were also there. They hoped to wait out the violence in Turkey, far from the fighting that has engulfed their country.