What Gaddafi’s Attack on a Humanitarian Ship Means for Misrata

A humanitarian aid ship came under fire on Wednesday in the port of Misrata. The ship, Red Star 1, was chartered by the International Organisation for Migration to deliver humanitarian supplies and evacuate wounded civilians and migrant workers attempting to flee the city. The ship is a critical part of the only lifeline into the besieged city, which has been surrounded by the forces of Muammar Gaddafi since pro-democracy protests erupted in the country in February.

The Red Star 1 had been waiting offshore for days because of ongoing fighting in Misrata. When the ship finally docked during a lull in the shelling, it came under rocket fire almost immediately according to an IOM official. The artillery attack came just as thousands of pounds of food and medical cargo were be offlined, and hundreds of wounded people and migrants workers were boarding. The rockets causes panicked refugees to rush the ship, forcing the captain to pull away from the dock to prevent a stampede. The ship redocked a few minutes after when the condition of one patient onboard became critical. Despite the attack, the ship was able to leave for rebel held city of Benghazi.

The attack on the ship is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, and is just the latest in the ever growing string of humanitarian and human rights abuses by the dictator. Ships like the Red Star 1 are the only way to get desperately needed humanitarian supplies into the city. The attack puts thousands of civilians in the city in danger from starvation and from a lack of medical supplies. The international community has a responsibility to protect the humanitarian lifeline into Misrata. It needs to do more in the future to fulfill that responsibly.

Photo credit: Kallioph