Gaddafi's forces 'used families as human shields'

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Gaddafi's forces 'used families as human shields'

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Two boys stand on top of an abandoned tank close to the sea, giving victory signs.

There is bravado in Benghazi despite fears of a government assault – and despite worsening conditions in the town amid reports of food shortages.

A donkey had a cartoon of Colonel Gaddafi strapped to its face. People are not afraid to ridicule their despised leader, or to express their feelings.

Benghazi hospital is treating rebels wounded during the government counter-attack on Brega up the coast.

Naser said he was shot as Gaddafi’s forces tried to regain control of the oil refinery. All the guards at the entrance were killed, he said.

He also claimed that government troops seized whole families on the road and took them in their cars to use as human shields.

Halid was one of thousands of volunteers who came from Benghazi to protect the refinery when they heard about the attack. He said Gaddafi’s troops shot him while he was tending to other wounded rebels.

Halid claims he spent 15 years as a political prisoner. When he recovers he plans to take up arms to fight for his country’s youth, to make their lives better than his.

The faces of these men, and those of others in the hospital ward, show the harsh dose of reality the rebels have experienced after the initial euphoria. Holding onto their gains, and ousting the regime, is going to take a long hard fight.