Libyan Revolutionary Fighters enter Sirte from East

Libyan revolutionary forces have entered stronghold of forces loyal to the country’s fugitive former ruler Muammar Gaddafi on the eastern front as a humanitarian crisis engulfs the besieged city.

The battle for control of Gaddafi’s hometown continued on Monday when fighters moved tanks and heavy artillery into the bastion after fierce fighting using machineguns and rifles, Reuters reported.

On the west of Sirte, Libyan fighters, blocked about 15 kilometers from the center of the bastion, used heavy artillery but did not send any infantry into the city as Gaddafi loyalists put up strong resistance.

Fighters had reached within hundreds of meters of the city center on the western front on Saturday before being pushed back on Sunday.

Meanwhile, hundreds of civilians have fled Sirte as fears grew over grave shortages of food and medicine as well as security.

“There is no food, no water, no petrol and no electricity. This has been going on for nearly two months now as Gaddafi forces would not allow us to leave,” an escaping resident of the city said on Monday.

Lack of access to clean drinking water has sparked an epidemic of water-borne diseases.

Medical sources at a clinic in the town of Harawa, 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Sirte, said there were not enough nurses to take care of patients, mostly children.

“Since morning I saw nearly 120 patients and 70 percent of them were children. They are coming from some outskirts of Sirte and nearby villages,” said Doctor Valentina Rybakova, a Ukrainian working in Libya for the past eight years.

Another resident of the crisis-hit city who was fleeing along with 20 relatives said they were frightened of airstrikes carried out by NATO warplanes.

“NATO has been bombing continuously. The children are scared. We had to leave. There was no option,” the Sirte resident said.

The alliance said its fighter jets struck eight military targets, including ammunition stores and rocket launchers, in the besieged city a day earlier.

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