Libyan Rebels Hang On To Strategic Border Crossing

May 4, 2011
Originally published on May 4, 2011 9:21 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Eleanor Beardsley reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAUCOUS CROWD CHATTER)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Hours before the fighting began, panicked Libyan civilians - their vehicles bursting with children and bedding - made their way over the border into Tunisia. They all described attacks on their villages by Gadhafi's forces.

INSKEEP: I come from Rogueban, in the western mountains.

BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Man: Very, very bad in Libya from war. Gadhafi kill everyone.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

BEARDSLEY: Libyan doctor, Salah Elbaroumi, drove an aid truck packed with medicine and food donations from Ireland. He says it took a week to drive across Europe and Tunisia to get to this border, and it must stay open.

SALAH ELBAROUMI: We're trying to support people, because inside, people are suffering for food, suffering, you know, many things. It's disaster. But this border is very important. If he closed this border, all the people will be killed inside.

BEARDSLEY: Mohammed Khelifa is also a doctor. Now his job is ferrying in jerry cans of gasoline for the rebels.

MOHAMMED KHELIFA: The border gate, which between Tunisia and Libya is very, very important for revolutionaries and also for Gadhafi government.

BEARDSLEY: The road from the border is clogged with Libyan cars loaded with civilians going one way and rebel pick-up trucks loaded with supplies going the other. Children lean out of car windows to flash the rebel victory sign. Just inside Tunisian territory, a huge, yellow dump truck has pulled off the side of the road.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN PLAYING)

BEARDSLEY: In the back are about 30 children. Kamel Fellah is father to a handful of the children and the truck's driver. Fellah says he and other parents loaded the kids in the truck a few days ago and fled the town of Zintan to escape the shelling. He says they've been sleeping in the desert at night.

KAMEL FELLAH: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley.

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INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.