Libya rebels mark major gains against Qaddafi
Libya rebels reclaimed the Misurata airport yesterday. As they advance on the eastern oil town of Brega, Britain offered them several million dollars in aid and a London office.
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Libya's rebels on Wednesday marked major gains against the forces of Muammar Qaddafi, seizing control of the Misurata airport, advancing on the strategic oil town of Brega, and welcoming more defections from Qaddafi's government.
The rebels were boosted by international support, as NATO airplanes bombed the capital of Tripoli overnight and Britain invited the rebels' National Transitional Council to set up an office in London.
The advances come after nearly three months of fighting that have seen the rebels make major advances only to be beaten back by Col. Qaddafi's troops, with both sides digging in for what seemed to be a fight with no end in sight.
Gains on either side remain tenuous.
“The rebels may be getting the upper hand because of external support, but it is too early to call,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, told Bloomberg. "We have to wait to see if another brick wall emerges. Qaddafi may have more tricks up his sleeve.”
NATO bombs Tripoli after Qaddafi makes rare appearance
Qaddafi appeared on state television Wednesday in his first public appearance since April 30, when NATO attacks on his compound killed his son Saif al-Arab and three of his grandchildren. His appearance, in a filmed meeting with tribal leaders, seemed designed to quell rumors that he was sick or injured in the attack.
Soon after the footage aired on television, NATO warplanes dropped four rockets on Qaddafi’s Tripoli compound of Bab al-Azaziya, a government spokesman told CNN. The Financial Times reported that "jets screeched overhead during the night and at least three explosions boomed out at about 3 a.m., witnesses said."
Libyan officials have criticized NATO airstrikes for exceeding the mandate of United Nations Resolution 1973, which authorizes member states to take all necessary measures short of a foreign occupation to protect civilians under attack in Libya.
John Burns, reporting from Tripoli for The New York Times, explains that NATO has "determined that Col. Qaddafi himself is the most important control and command structure of all and that that makes him a legitimate target."
Rebels seize Misurata airport
Also on Wednesday, rebels in beleaguered Misurata stormed the city's airport and reclaimed it from pro-Qaddafi soldiers. Misurata, Libya’s third-largest city, sits about 116 miles east of Tripoli.
The New York Times described the airport's seizure as a major gain for the rebels, reporting: "With the loyalists suffering a string of defeats in recent days and the rebels gaining weapons and confidence, Colonel Qaddafi now appeared weaker than ever before, Misurata residents said. With their advance, the rebels had, at least for the moment, the potential to cut off government forces in the east from those in the west of Libya, threatening the logistics lines of Qaddafi forces."