The Libyan port city of Misrata was one of the first urban areas to fall to rebel when the pro-democracy uprising began in February. Since then, the city has been under siege from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, including the feared Special Forces Khamis Brigade. The city is a short 130 miles from Gaddafi’s power base in Tripoli and — due to its location — has been completely cut off from any support from the main rebel controlled areas hundreds of miles away in eastern Libya. Since falling to the rebels, hundreds have died in fighting during the government’s repeated attempts to retake the city. It is a lonely outpost of rebellion far behind enemy lines.
The siege has had brutal effects on the humanitarian situation in the city. Reports coming out paint a bleak picture: many have no electricity or running water, while food and medical supplies are running low. The ring of pro-Gaddafi forces around Misrata has made is extremely difficult for aid organizations to delivery supplies by land. However, recently the international community has established a critical lifeline into the besieged city — from the sea.
Leaving the city under rebel control but surrounded by loyalist forces would bring to mind an obvious parallel to Srebrenica. If the Gaddafi government persists, it is exceedingly likely to value the recovery of Misrata much more than NATO will value its defense. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the intervention designed to prevent a massacre in Benghazi set the stage for one in Misrata. Of course, it would have been nice if someone had thought this through before the bombing started.