Muammar Gaddafi’s jets bombed Libyan rebels on Monday, aiding a
counter-offensive that has pushed insurgents 100 miles eastward in a week, as
France pressed for a no-fly zone “as fast as possible.”
forces say they cleared 'armed gangs' from BregaBBC
crew says beaten, threatened by Libyan forces
government, at first reeling from widespread popular uprisings last month, is
now confident of success.
“We are certain of our victory, whatever the
price,” state TV said.
Government troops took Brega on Sunday, but the
rebels said they had moved back into the important eastern oil terminal town
during the night and surrounded Gaddafi’s forces.
Libyan planes bombed
Ajdabiyah, behind rebel lines, the only sizable town between Brega and the rebel
stronghold of Benghazi. From Ajdabiyah there are roads to Benghazi and to
Tobruk, which could allow Gaddafi’s troops to encircle Benghazi.
now a very real possibility that by the time world powers agree on a response to
the conflict in Libya, Gaddafi’s forces may already have won, some analysts
said. Others said the difficulty Libyan forces had stamping out small numbers of
rebels in the west points to a long, nasty fight when Gaddafi’s troops reach
An internationally enforced no-fly zone would do little to halt
the advance of Gaddafi’s forces because, at decisive moments, they have been
beating the rebels on the ground, not from the air. But when they reach
Benghazi, Gaddafi’s superior firepower is likely to be blunted by the kind of
urban warfare waged first in the city of Zawiyah, just to the west of Tripoli,
and now in Misrata, 200 km. east of the capital.
France is pushing G8
foreign ministers meeting in Paris to agree to action on Libya, and back its
efforts to speed up a UN Security Council decision on imposing a no-fly
France hopes an Arab League request to the council to impose a
no-fly zone will persuade reluctant members to support it. Arab League backing
satisfies one of three conditions set by NATO for it to police Libyan air space,
that of regional support. The other two are proof that its help is needed, and a
Security Council resolution.
News of humanitarian suffering or atrocities
could persuade more powers that help is needed and also spur Security Council
action. But while Human Rights Watch has reported a wave of arbitrary arrests
and disappearances in Tripoli, hard evidence is so far largely
“Everyone here is puzzled as to how many casualties the
international community judges to be enough for them to help. Maybe we should
start committing suicide to reach the required number,” said rebel spokesman
Essam Gheriani in Benghazi.
“It is shameful,” he said. “We are hoping
today for some development such as a resolution” at the Security
In New York, the Security Council began discussing a nofly zone
on Monday, though not yet a draft resolution.
French UN Ambassador Gerard
Araud told reporters that Lebanon, the sole Arab member of the council, would
play a key role in negotiations on a draft resolution, but declined to comment
over whether it might be too late for a no-fly zone. France was the first
country to recognize the rebel government as Libya’s legitimate
If the Security Council does endorse a no-fly zone,
enforcing it will fall largely to the United States, which has yet to decide
whether to back the measure.
“That is a decision, a political decision
ultimately, that has not been taken,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell
told MSNBC television. He added that a no-fly zone was still, however, an option
Russia and China are even less enthusiastic, but UN
diplomats said they would have difficulty vetoing a no-fly zone when the Arab
League had requested it and may instead abstain.
US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton left Washington on Sunday for Paris; later in the week she will
hold the first cabinet-level US talks with the Libyan opposition and discussions
on democratic reform with transitional leaders in post-revolt Egypt and
As the diplomatic wrangling continues, Gaddafi’s tanks and
planes have proved more than a match for the rag-tag rebel force, especially in
the flat desert terrain in between major towns, pushing them back some 150 km.
since the counterattack began on March 6.
Rebels say the government
assaults follow a pattern: First warplanes attack, striking fear into rebel
ranks, then comes a rolling artillery barrage as ground troops move in, some of
them landing from the sea.
While advancing east, government forces have
also moved to crush pockets of resistance left in the west.
troops attacked Zuwarah on Monday, a small town 100 km. west of
Four people were killed. A Zuwarah resident said pro- Gaddafi
forces had entered the western town in tanks and were fighting their way toward
“I can see the tanks from where I am now, and they are around
500 meters from the center of Zuwarah,” Tarek Abdullah told Reuters by
“There are still clashes, but I think soon the whole town will
fall into their hands.”
Residents had earlier reported intensified
shelling that sent many people running from their houses for safety because they
were also being hit.
The only major city held by insurgents outside the
east is Misrata. Rebels and residents there say an assault on the city has been
held up by infighting within the ranks of the besieging government
The UN human rights office urged the international community to
move quickly to protect Libyan civilians from violence.
of Colonel Gaddafi... has chosen to attack civilians with massive,
indiscriminate force,” deputy high commissioner Kyung-wha Kang said in a speech.
“The responsibility to protect them now falls on the international community.”