Qaddafi's forces encircle last city before rebel capital
According to rebels, Qaddafi's forces now control two of the three exits from the city leading into rebel territory from Ajdabiya and are attacking densely populated civilian areas, including a hospital.
The rebel-held Libyan city of Ajdabiya has come under a withering rocket and warplane assault from Muammar Qaddafi’s forces as leaders of the stalled revolution continued to plead for an international no-fly zone. Mr. Qaddafi's son boasted that the revolt would soon be crushed.Skip to next paragraph
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According to rebel information, Qaddafi's forces appear to be encircling the city and attempting to squeeze the rebels inside – a strategy that is being bolstered by tanks on the ground and could significantly increase the civilian toll and cut off rebel supply lines.
In Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital 90 miles away, supporters of the uprising are afraid that their city of 1 million could well be next. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement today warning of an impending assault on Benghazi, and said such action “would massively place civilian lives at risk.”
“We’re being killed, our families slaughtered,” says Zaid, a man who says he’s been advising the rebels on desert warfare and didn’t want his full name used. “The international community is just watching, like it usually does. Somalia, Palestine, Libya, it makes no difference to them.”
There were hints that all of this could prompt foreign countries, which have avoided direct action until now, to intervene. French President Nicolas Sarkozy pushed for the UN Security Council to declare a no-fly zone to protect the rebels, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton implied the US is not opposed to the use of force to stop Qaddafi.
“Many different actions are being considered, yes, a no-fly zone, but others as well to enable the protection of Libyan citizens against their own leader, who seems determined to turn the clock back and kill as many of them as possible,” she told reporters in Cairo.
Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the dictator's eldest son who acts as a regime mouthpiece, sought to project an aura of inevitable victory for his father. He told the Euronews television channel today that "in 48 hours everything will be over. Whatever decision is taken [by the international community], it will be too late."
He also said Qaddafi's military was "close to Benghazi." There were no signs of Qaddafi's forces on the ground anywhere near Benghazi today, however.
Two main entrances to city in Qaddafi's hands
In the past week, Qaddafi has subjected the western towns of Misratah and Zawiyah to tank and mortar fire, killing dozens of civilians along with rebel fighters. In addition, Qaddafi shelled Misratah repeatedly today, leaving 11 dead.
Now Qaddafi seems to be applying a similar combination of tactics to Ajdabiya, a city of about 100,000.
Yesterday, his rockets and planes pounded rebel positions to the west of the city for hours. By late afternoon, Qaddafi moved in ground troops and tanks, witnesses said. Residents said the power was cut last night and was still off as of early evening today.
Overnight, rebels managed to counterattack, and their spokesmen said they held the center of the city today.