Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi shelled the besieged town of Misrata on Monday after the African Union said he had accepted a plan to end Libya’s civil war.
Al Jazeera television quoted a rebel spokesman as saying five people died and 20 were wounded in Misrata, a lone rebel bastion in western Libya, which has been under siege for more than six weeks. Rebels in Misrata told Reuters Gaddafi’s forces fired Russian-made Grad rockets into the city, where civilian conditions are said to be desperate.
The insurgents said they would accept no plan that allowed Gaddafi to stay in power and prepared to advance on the eastern front after repelling a major government assault on Sunday against their town of Ajdabiyah.
Prospects for a ceasefire looked remote.
South African President Jacob Zuma, head of an AU peace mission, said on Monday that Gaddafi had accepted a peace “road map”, including a ceasefire, after talks in Tripoli.
A spokesman in the rebel capital of Benghazi said the opposition would look at the plan but Gaddafi must end his 41-year rule. “The Libyan people have made it very clear that Gaddafi must step down, but we will consider the proposal once we have more details, and respond,” spokesperson Mustafa Gheriani told Reuters.
Officials from NATO, which is bombing Libyan government armour under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians, said they took note of the AU proposal but the alliance would continue operations while civilians were at risk.
“It does not appear that this indication of a peace deal has any substance at this point,” said one NATO official in reference to the shelling of Misrata.
The African Union does not have a good track record in brokering peace deals, having failed recently to end conflict or disputes in Somalia, Madagascar and Ivory Coast.
An AU statement after the Tripoli talks made no mention of Gaddafi’s future. Asked if the issue of him stepping aside was discussed, Ramtane Lamamra, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, told reporters:
“There was some discussion.” The AU proposal included an immediate cessation of hostilities, effective monitoring of the ceasefire, delivery of humanitarian aid and protection of foreigners.
The NATO attacks outside Ajdabiyah on Sunday helped break the biggest assault by Gaddafi’s forces on the eastern front for at least a week. The town is the gateway to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
On Monday rebels were putting burned and mangled bodies into blankets by blackened government vehicles outside Ajdabiyah and dragging them into the desert for burial.