Brigades led by fighters from the city of Misrata and backed by US airstrikes appear close to recapturing the strategic city after a campaign lasting more than five months, although their progress has been slowed by snipers, car bombs and hidden explosives.
A statement from the Libyan forces which are aligned with a UN-brokered unity government in Tripoli said they were gaining ground in Sirte’s Ghiza Bahriya district “in the face of desperate resistance”.
Some residential buildings had been retaken from Islamic State (ISIS / Daesh / ISIL), said Rida Issa, a spokesman.
“There are some women and children trapped inside Ghiza Bahriya and it’s well known that they have been used as human shields by Daesh (Islamic State),” he said, using a derogatory Arabic acronym for the terrorist militants. “Our forces are trying very hard to avoid heavy weapons so as not to hurt those civilians.”
In recent weeks several groups of civilians, including women and children who were held captive by Islamic State (ISIS / Daesh / ISIL), have escaped or been released from the area of fighting.
The field hospital in Sirte listed one fighter from Misrata as having died in Monday’s clashes.
Islamic State (ISIS / Daesh / ISIL) took full control of Sirte in early 2015, extending its control along about 250 km (150 miles) of Libya’s Mediterranean coastline.
The United States began an air campaign over Sirte on August 1, and has so far carried out more than 350 strikes against Islamic State positions and equipment.
In London on Monday, the US, British and Italian foreign ministers met Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Seraj to tackle a political standoff preventing the UN-brokered unity government from expanding its authority outside the capital Tripoli.