Geneva – More than one million people fleeing Libya and inside the country need humanitarian aid, the United Nations said today. The figures were issued by the world body’s aid coordinator Valerie Amos as a refugee crisis built up around the borders of the North African country where a rebellion broke out last month against the 42-year rule of Muammar Gaddafi.
Amos made clear that her first priority was Misrata, a rebel-held town of 300,000 which residents said had been attacked at the weekend by government forces with tanks and missiles that cut insurgents to shreds.
“Humanitarian organizations need urgent access now,” said Amos, who was in areas of Tunisia along the Libyan border at the weekend. “People are injured and dying and need help immediately.”
Also on Monday, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during an interview likened the clampdown on dissidents in his country to what he called Israel’s crackdown of al Qaida terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
Misrata has been held by anti-Gaddafi rebels since the uprising began but is isolated from insurgent strongholds around the city of Benghazi in the east of the country, towards which Gaddafi’s forces were advancing on Monday.
The outcome of a weekend offensive against Misrata was not immediately clear.
In New York on Sunday, the office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had agreed in a telephone call with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa that the world body would immediately send a humanitarian team to Tripoli.