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News, August 2011
NATO Airstrikes Hit Northwestern Libya, Revolutionaries Enter Zawiyah
Libyan revolutionaries enter Zawiyah
Press TV, Sun Aug 14, 2011 1:51AM GMT
Libyan revolutionary forces have entered the coastal city of Zawiyah,
which is located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Tripoli,
according to the latest reports.
NATO airstrikes hit northwestern Libya
Press TV, Sun Aug 14, 2011 2:6AM GMT
Several airstrikes have targeted the key strategic towns of Zawiyah
and Gharyan in northwestern Libya as the NATO-led campaign against
forces loyal to the 69-year-old Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi continues.
Gaddafi forces, rebels fight over Zawiyah
Martin Veal and Missy Ryan (Reuters) 13 August 2011
NEAR ZAWIYAH/TRIPOLI, Libya -
Libyan government forces and rebels clashed around the western town of Zawiyah on Saturday as the insurgents tried to push closer to the capital Tripoli.
Reporters heard gunfire and skirmishing in the coastal town, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli. The highway from the capital to the Tunisian border was blocked there.
The government confirmed fighting in the area but said a rebel attempt to capture Zawiyah had been beaten back.
Zawiyah is “absolutely under our control,” government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters in Tripoli.
“A very small group of rebels tried to move into the south of Zawiyah but they were stopped easily because of our armed forces,” he said.
But a rebel spokesman, Mohammed Ezzawi, speaking from inside Zawiyah, said the rebel force was about 800 metres from Martyrs’ Square in the city centre.
“The Gaddafi Brigade occupy the eastern part of the main road while we are on the western side. There has been an intense exchange of fire on this road, which links Tripoli to Tunisia,” he told Reuters by telephone.
“If we manage to take Zawiyah we will be blocking this road and it will mean the death of Gaddafi,” he said, predicting the town would fall by Sunday.
Rebel fighters returning south to Bir al-Ghanam told Reuters the force was in the city centre but not in complete control.
“We took over the centre of Zawiyah about an hour ago. There were mercenaries there. The fighting lasted about 30 minutes and then they ran away,” said a rebel fighter named Ahmed.
He said people had come out in to the streets to celebrate.
A second rebel, Abdelsalam, said: “We’re in control of the centre. Some Gaddafi troops have fled to Tripoli, some are left over, and there are also mercenaries in the town. So we don’t have complete control yet.”
Dr Asim Shaybee, at a field hospital at Bir Ayyad gate south of the fighting, said four rebels were killed by an accidental NATO airstrike on a rebel tank at Zawiyah.
Several rebels were wounded including “one of them ... shot in the head by a sniper” the doctor said.
According to government spokesman Ibrahim, fewer than 100 rebels entered the city from the south and they tried to join up with 50 rebels within the city but they had been “dealt with”. Government forces were still fighting the rebels inside the city, he said.
Ibrahim said it was “not an advance but a skirmish, a suicide mission”.
The source inside Zawiyah said the rebel advance was helped by NATO strike at Nattafah 15 kms south of the city.
“There was a very large number of Gaddafi forces in that region,” he said.
Rebels trying to overthrow Gaddafi hope to capture Zawiyah and cut off his stronghold in the capital from access to the outside world by severing the coastal highway, which has been a lifeline for the embattled government.
They advanced north to within 25 km (15 miles) of Zawiyah earlier in the day, following what they said was a six-hour battle which pushed the front line closer to Tripoli.
Fighters said they had pushed government troops back about 7 km from their previous positions, fixing a frontline about 5 km north of the village of Bir Shuaib, near a diaper factory.
They said it had been a heavy battle, with pro-Gaddafi forces using anti-tank guns. A medic said three rebel fighters were wounded. Government troops withdrew, the rebels said.
CASUALTIES HIGHER IN EAST
In other fighting on two fronts well to the east of Tripoli, at Brega and near Misrata, at least 21 rebels and six soldiers were killed over the past two days, with some 50 rebels wounded. Neither side claimed major advances in the past 24 hours.
Libya’s state news agency said a NATO air strike killed six men in Brega. NATO said it targeted two armoured vehicles there.
Judging by impact craters, wrecked buildings and burnt-out tanks, NATO warplanes have also bombed government military targets on the route of the western rebel advance to Zawiyah over the past week, providing close air support.
Zawiyah is the home town of many of the rebels battling on the western front and has staged two uprisings against Gaddafi since the nationwide revolt broke out in February.
On Libya’s most easterly front, at least 21 rebels and government soldiers were killed in fighting for the oil terminal of Brega in the past two days, hospital workers said.
A volunteer at the hospital in Ajdabiyah, where fighters wounded in Brega are taken, said 15 rebel fighters had been killed and about 50 wounded. He said the bodies of six government soldiers were brought in on Friday.
The Libyan state news agency JANA reported that six “martyrs”, all men, were killed in a NATO raid on Brega, and the alliance confirmed it had targeted two armoured vehicles.
In fighting around a second eastern front in Misrata, much closer to Tripoli, at least six rebels were killed in the past 24 hours, rebel sources said.
In Misrata, a port on the Mediterranean under rebel control for months, six rebel fighters were killed in fighting on Friday. There was no word on government casualties.
Three rebels were killed west of the city in fighting for Zlitan, west of Misrata. Further south, three more died in battles with Gaddafi’s forces in the town of Tawargha.
Rebels seize western town centre, reports say
Rebel fighters in Libya's town of Zawiyah seized control of the downtown area Sunday after fierce clashes with Libyan government forces, reports say. Zawiyah lies 50 km west of the capital Tripoli, which rebels said was their next goal.
REUTERS - Libyan rebels hoisted their flag in the centre of this town near the capital on Sunday after the most dramatic advance in months cut off Muammar Gaddafi's capital from its main link to the outside world.
The swift rebel advance on the town of Zawiyah, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, will deal a psychological blow to Gaddafi's supporters and also cuts the coastal highway to Tunisia which keeps the capital supplied with food and fuel.
But there was no sign Tripoli was under immediate threat from a rebel attack: heavily armed pro-Gaddafi forces still lie between Zawiyah and the capital.
After their initial rapid advances were beaten back by Gaddafi's heavy armour, the Libyan rebels have largely been unable to break the stalemate, even with the help of NATO air strikes.
But rebel forces are now in their strongest position since the uprising against 41 years of Gaddafi's rule began in February. They now control the coast both east and west of Tripoli, to the north is the Mediterranean and a NATO naval blockade, while to the south is empty desert.
Rebels from the Western Mountains region south of this Mediterranean coastal town dashed forward into Zawiyah late on Saturday, encountering little sustained resistance from Gaddafi's forces.
Near Zawiyah's central produce market early on Sunday, about 50 rebel fighters were milling around and triumphantly shouting "Allahu Akbar!" or "God is greatest." The red, black and green rebel flag was flying from a shop.
Rebel fighters told Reuters there were still forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in the town, including snipers who they said had positioned themselves on tall buildings. Bursts of artillery and machine gun fire could be heard.
One rebel fighter said Gaddafi's forces were still in control of the oil refinery on the northern edge of Zawiyah -- a strategic target because it is the only one still functioning in western Libya and Gaddafi's forces depend on it for fuel.
Rebels said the capital was their next target once Zawiyah was fully under their control. One fighter smiled as he pointed to a road sign marking the highway from Zawiyah to Tripoli.
"I'm 1,000 percent sure we're going to take over Zawiyah today and then move on to Tripoli," said Bin Jaffin Ali, 34, a shopkeeper turned rebel fighter.
Further west along the coastal highway, near the main border crossing into Tunisia, local residents said late on Saturday there were heavy clashes between rebels and government troops but that Gaddafi's forces still controlled the crossing.
In Tripoli, government officials on Saturday denied Zawiyah was under rebel control, saying a small force of anti-Gaddafi fighters had launched a "suicide mission" that was quickly repelled.
Zawiyah is "absolutely under our control", government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters. "A very small group of rebels tried to move into the south of Zawiyah but were stopped easily because of our armed forces," he said.
In the Tunisian capital, where many Libyans have fled from the fighting in their home country, Libyans came out on to the streets late on Saturday to celebrate after hearing unconfirmed rumours Gaddafi and his family had fled.
But there was no indication of any change in Tripoli. State television said Gaddafi's supporters were heading to his Bab al-Aziziyah compound to show their support.
In Brussels, the NATO alliance said it was monitoring what it called a "fluid" situation on the ground.
"Pro and anti-Gaddafi forces have been engaging each other. Nothing is certain yet and there is no confirmation about who has control of Zawiyah because the situation changes every day," a NATO official said.
Balance of forces
Rebels, backed by NATO warplanes, have been trying since February to end Gaddafi's 41-year rule in the bloodiest of the "Arab Spring" uprisings convulsing the Middle East.
The conflict has been largely deadlocked, but the rebels' advance to the Mediterranean coast near Tripoli represents a major shift in the balance of forces.
Control of the highway to Tunisia could determine the outcome of the conflict because without it the capital is effectively besieged.
There was no traffic moving along the highway, and rebel fighters there said it was closed.
Gaddafi says the rebels are armed criminals and al Qaeda militants, and he has described the NATO campaign as an act of colonial aggression aimed at stealing Libya's oil.
Judging by impact craters, wrecked buildings and burnt-out tanks, NATO warplanes had bombed government military targets on the route of the rebel advance to Zawiyah over the past week, providing close air support.
Zawiyah is the home town of many rebels battling on the western front and has staged two uprisings against Gaddafi since the revolt broke out against his rule.
Isa Korogle, a 35-year-old unemployed man, said he had been hiding in farmland near Zawiyah because he feared for his life since taking part in an uprising earlier this year.
"It feels like the first day of my life because I'm back in Zawiyah," he said on Sunday.
In the east, rebel forces clashed with Gaddafi's soldiers in the oil town of Brega but there were no reports of casualties on Sunday, a rebel spokesman and a hospital volunteer said.
"There are engagements but we're going slowly. This is our strategy because we want to avoid casualties," said Mohammad Zawawi, head of the rebels' media centre in their stronghold of Benghazi, eastern Libya.
Sixteen rebels were killed and about 50 wounded over three days of clashes in Brega up to Sunday. At least six of Gaddafi's soldiers were also killed.
Brega is strung out along about 15 km (10 miles) of Mediterranean coast. The rebels have captured a residential neighbourhood in the east while Gaddafi's troops still hold an oil terminal in the town's industrial sector in the west.
Setbacks for Gaddafi's forces near Tripoli were unlikely to undermine the morale of his troops in the east because they had no access to the news, Zawawi said.
"They don't let them use radio or television. They don't know anything about what's going on," he said. "Captured Gaddafi troops don't know anything."
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