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More massacres in Misrata

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi were stepping up attacks on Misrata and firing rockets into the city, protesters said on Wednesday as they appealed for international help ahead of a meeting in Qatar of their representatives with US-led allies.

The opposition’s Interim Transitional National Council called for the United Nations to declare the besieged city an internationally protected zone. It said all necessary measures must be taken to prevent a massacre of men, women and children.

The Council’s leaders will hold talks in Qatar on Wednesday with officials from the US, U.K., France and other countries giving them military support against Muammar Qaddafi.

“What we will seek is the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions about the protection of civilians, and the opening of humanitarian corridors to Misrata and the other cities in the west that are besieged,” Abdel Hafiz Ghogha, deputy head of the council, was quoted by ITV as saying in an interview in Benghazi.

UNICEF has warned that fighting in Misrata was threatening the civilian population in the city, where water and sewer systems are disrupted.

More than 1,000 people have been killed and several thousand wounded in Misrata in the six-week siege, according to Suleiman Fortia, a spokesman for Transitional National Council.

ITV news has reported impartial coverage for the first time from the city of Misrata. The report showed a shadow of a city that was once Libya’s second business hub. In its place is now a city in ruin, buildings, roads and hospitals destroyed.

Hundreds dead, blood stained streets and an overflowing central hospital. Perhaps more devastating were attacks by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces on schools and children’s playgrounds. These attacks have resulted in many children being killed and others seriously injured.

On Tuesday, the interim council said it would accept nothing short of the removal of Colonel Qaddafi and his sons from the country, according to AFP.

Mahmoud Shammam, whose council is seeking international approval, stressed: “We want to move from the de facto recognition of the council to an internationally-recognized legitimacy.”

Such recognition would pave the way for the TNC to receive billions of dollars of desperately needed Libyan funds frozen in the United States and Britain, and the right to obtain credit at sovereign rates.

Colonel Qaddafi’s government vowed to confront anyone trying to get close to Misrata under the pretext of humanitarian aid, Al Arabiya News Channel reported on Tuesday.

(Abeer Tayel of Al Arabiya can be reached via email at: abeer.tayel@mbc.net; Sara Ghasemilee, also of Al Arabiya, can be reached at: sara.ghasemilee@mbc.net)