In May 2011, Misratah, Libya’s third largest city, had been under siege for three months. Gaddafi’s forces and the militias of Shabab, or revolutionary youth, fought to control the city in a conflict of unprecedented violence. It caused hundreds of deaths and devastated a large part of the urban landscape, which for weeks has been subject to constant and indiscriminate bombing. Civilian and military structures, private homes, ambulances and the seaport (the only point of communication with free Libya that was still open) were all targeted without distinction.
The population of Benghazi had in fact organized a boat line to supply Misratah with food and medicine, as well as the weapons and ammunition that the revolutionary militias needed in order to keep on pushing towards Tripoli. Dozens of Benghazi fishing boats, which were converted into warships armed with rocket launchers and heavy-caliber machine guns, and commanded by volunteer captains, connected the two cities, bringing in help, not to mention hundreds of refugees on their way out.