Urban warfare is the ugliest of all. It’s bloody and unpredictable. In 1989, my family and I fled Baku, Azerbaijan as violence escalated in and around Nagorno - Karabakh. I am sure the situation then is not comparable to what is taking place in Tripoli these days, but I’d like to think of it as a mini urban warfare. Charged with fervent ethnic emotions, snipers targeted innocent civilians peaking out of their windows or standing on their balconies at night. Neighbours I’ve known were killed. Memories of having to huddle with two Azeri girls in the bathtub when gunshots were penetrating walls of buildings are still vivid. When and how violence would end was everyone’s guess.
Now in 2011, I can only imagine what the residents of Tripoli must be going through. My two main concerns are the following:
First, the innocent civilians (women, children and elderly) who are unarmed and unprotected probably hiding in their houses, or God forbid injured and bedridden in hospitals, unable to depart them due to the fear of being targeted and retaliated against by pro-Qaddafi snipers. I will not underestimate their ability nor capability especially after the appearance of Saif Al-Islam yesterday roaming Tripoli’s streets, arrogant and defiant as usual, while thumbing his nose at the word and telling the world, and the ICC which boasted his capture a day ago, “tooz" (an impolite word in colloquial Arabic for "whatever" at its best and "get lost or screw yourself at its worst). Wouldn’t be the first time Saif Al-Islam or his father uses it.
Second, the journalists stranded in Rixos hotel in Tripoli. If the reports are credible and they are surrounded by Qaddafi’s armed supporters, I pray they are not used as scapegoats when the mess hits the fan.
We all know that in any sort of civilian unrest there is collateral damage, whether civilian or infrastructural. I just pray its more of the latter than the former. The rebels and NATO personnel must take utmost precaution in announcing any advances/retreats/captures unless they are 100% authentic. Conflicting news that are uttered to gain applause can have detrimental effects on the grounds as well as on the people’s morale.
I, for one, was disheartened to see Saif Al-Islam flipping his victory sign following his “detention” and moreover disappointed that his half-brother, Mohammed Al-Qaddafi, escaped, according to Aljazeera channel.