Bullets lay out on mat, surrounding a shisha pipe, amid the breeze-block walls of a building under construction, surrounded by scrubland.

Inside it, a group of around twenty-five young fighters are holed up, many wearing the white headband of martyrdom with Qur’anic verse written on them. These are young men, many of whom are students, who have picked up arms as they hope to defend their city.

Light from the holes in the walls streams onto these young men’s faces, as they clutch at semi-automatic rifles, watching a green building, opposite.

In this building are Qaddafi fighters, the green a coincidence of their allegiance. The students opposing them describe them as “commando snipers”, Qaddafi’s elite, proving their shot by picking off anything that becomes visible. I can’t help but think of the fragility of the wall behind which these young fighters shelter. One RPG shot and that would be the end of their war. And mine.

Many of those fighting in Misrata are not experienced combatants. They are regular men—and boys—who are fighting to protect their city, and their families. It is their knowledge of the terrain, their organisation, and their numbers, that have prevented their more practiced foe from taking the city.

On the drive here, I had passed a young boy herding his sheep through the lanes of a small residential district. So much for the innocence of youth.