(Adds NTC chairman quotes, details on Red Cross visit)
* ICRC gets medical supplies to hospital despite fire
* NTC chairman Abdel Jalil offeres two-day truce
* Heavy fighting, shelling continues
By Rania El Gamal and Joseph Logan
SIRTE, Oct 1 Aid workers from the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) brought medical supplies into
ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's besieged hometown of
Sirte on Saturday as fears grew that a humanitarian disaster was
The chairman of the ruling National Transitional Council
(NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil, said its forces had called a two-day
truce to allow civilians to leave as people streamed out of
Sirte by the hundreds.
The truce order was issued on Friday but heavy rocket and
mortar fire continued from both sides on Saturday, even though
NTC commanders outside the town said they were trying to let
NTC fighters in Sirte told Reuters that NATO planes had
dropped flyers urging civilians to flee the fighting.
The prolonged battle for Sirte, encircled by anti-Gaddafi
fighters and hit by regular NATO air strikes, has trapped people
inside the town of about 100,000 through several fierce assaults
over two weeks.
Fighting continued to the west and east of the town on
Saturday. Loud thuds were heard coming from the town centre, and
white smoke billowed into the sky while NATO planes roared
A truckload of supplies and a car carrying European ICRC
workers were allowed to pass checkpoints manned by fighters
loyal to the NTC.
The ICRC delivered medical kits for treating up to 200
people wounded in the fighting to Sirte hospital, as well as
fuel to run the generator, a spokesman in Geneva told Reuters.
But the team of four aid workers, who also had security
clearance from pro-Gaddafi forces, heard constant gunfire and so
were not able to go into the hospital, the spokesman said.
"They went to the hospital but were not able to see
patients, they didn't go into the wards," Marcal Izard said.
Doctors at the hospital -- which had no power -- told the
aid workers there were 200 patients inside.
Izard said the ICRC team saw that the water tower of the
hospital had been hit and damaged during the fighting.
A LONG WAR
Fighting remained heavy at a roundabout in the east of the
town where NTC fighters have been held at bay for six days by
artillery and sniper fire from pro-Gaddafi forces.
NTC commanders said the snipers were the main factor
frustrating their advance. Reuters journalists have seen some
anti-Gaddafi fighters run from the front under fire.
On Saturday, when a truck careened back from the roundabout
carrying a dead NTC fighter, his comrades fired into the air and
began to shout, "Muammar, the rat! He is killing us!"
Gaddafi loyalists and some civilians blamed NATO air strikes
and shelling by NTC forces for killing civilians.
NATO and the NTC deny that. They and some civilians coming
from the town say pro-Gaddafi fighters are executing people they
believe to be NTC sympathisers.
The NTC is under pressure to strike a balance between a
prolonged fight that would delay its efforts to govern and a
quick victory which, if too bloody, could worsen divisions and
embarrass the fledgling government and its foreign backers.
NTC chairman Abdel Jalil on Saturday acknowledged that
disorganisation among its forces was hampering its efforts to
take Sirte and Bani Walid, the other main holdout town.
"But the NTC is going on firmly regarding plans to liberate
Sirte and Bani Walid," he said.
NTC officials have been caught off guard by the intensity of
the resistance from the pro-Gaddafi fighters at Sirte and Bani
"This war is going to go on for a long time. Do you know
why? It's because of the snipers. What will finish it is the
rockets but they can't do that because of the civilians," a man
called Mohammed said as he fled with his parents.
On Friday evening, one person was killed and six were
wounded when pro-Gaddafi fighters emerged from Bani Walid and
staged a surprise attack on the eastern flank of NTC forces
stationed to the north, residents of the area told Reuters on
The residents said it was believed to be the third or fourth
time that such an assault had been attempted by the town's
defenders since the start of the NTC's attack in early
As concern mounts for people in both towns, several
residents have told Reuters they are leaving Sirte because they
have not eaten for days.
"I am not scared. I am hungry," said Ghazi Abdul-Wahab, a
Syrian who has lived in the town for 40 years.
Some residents say they had paid up to $800 for fuel to
leave the city because it was scarce. Others said pasta and
flour were now changing hands for large sums of money.
Doctors at a field hospital said an elderly woman died from
malnutrition and they had seen other, similar cases.
(Additional reporting by William MacLean in Tripoli, Emad Omar
in Benghazi and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Barry