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Witness: Joy as opposition beats back Gadhafi forces in Misrata

By the CNN Wire Staff
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Videos online show damage to buildings and waving of the opposition's flag
  • A doctor at a hospital in the city says 42 people were killed, 85 wounded
  • Witness in Misrata: "Everyone is hugging everyone" despite "blood everywhere"
  • Pro-Gadhafi demonstrators in Tripoli claimed the government had taken the city

(CNN) -- Standing outside a courthouse Sunday that the Libyan opposition is using for a base of operations in the town of Misrata, a witness described a sense of jubilation against a backdrop of blood stains and rocket fragments.

"I'm standing in the middle of a ... battlefield," the witness told CNN by phone from Misrata after a fierce fight between rebels and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

People were holding their hands up, singing, chanting and cheering, he said. "Everyone is hugging everyone."

CNN is not identifying witnesses and sources for safety reasons.

Videos posted on YouTube and thought to be out of Misrata showed damage to buildings and several shots of people celebrating around the opposition flag -- once being raised on a pole, and another time being waved by a man atop a charred vehicle that had a dead body inside.

A doctor at Central Misrata Hospital said 42 people were killed in the fighting -- 17 from the opposition and 25 from the pro-Gadhafi forces. Among the dead was a 3-year-old child, killed from direct fire, the doctor said. At least 85 people were wounded, the doctor said.

The fighting continued on the city's outskirts Sunday evening.

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The witness described the opposition's victory in central Misrata even as people some 200 kilometers (125 miles) west, at a pro-Gadhafi demonstration in Tripoli, insisted the government had taken back the coastal central Libyan city.

After reports of the opposition successfully holding onto Misrata, east of Tripoli, Libyan state TV showed a graphic stating that "strict orders have been issued to the armed forces not to enter cities taken by terrorist gangs."

On Sunday morning, pro-Gadhafi militias converged on Misrata from three different points, trying to retake control of the city, the witness said. He saw four tanks, though other witnesses told him there were a total of six. Using heavy artillery, the ground forces and tanks headed for the courthouse operations base.

Tanks fired rockets at the building, and black smoke could be seen rising from it, he said.

The opposition couldn't match the government's weaponry, but rebels took to the streets using what weapons they had, such as machine guns. And some simply picked up whatever they could find, with some resorting to sticks, he said.

Speaking to CNN during the battle, he said, "People are willing to die for the cause," describing them as "fearless" and "amazing."

Later, after the forces had been repelled from the city center, the witness said, "I can't believe it.

"The will and the determination and dedication that people are showing here on the ground, it just makes you speechless," he said.

Describing the scene, he said, "We're talking about a rocket on the ground. We're talking about blood everywhere."

CNN could not confirm witness reports for many areas in Libya, including Misrata.

Valerie Amos, the United Nations' Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said Sunday that there was "urgent" need for humanitarian aid in Misrata because "people are dying and need help immediately." The world body has gotten reports that Libyan Red Crescent ambulances dispatched from Tripoli have been trying to get into Misrata to transport out dead and injured people.

"I call on the authorities to provide access without delay to allow aid workers to help save lives," Amos said in a statement.

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