Libyan rebels and Gaddafi troops in battle on two fronts

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Libyan government forces and rebel fighters have been fighting in two different cities Wednesday, in both the east and west of the country.

Fighting was reported in the cities of Ajdabiya, an eastern city that is the last settlement before Benghazi, the main rebel location, and in Misrata, the only town still controlled by rebels in western Libya. Rebels claimed to have held off government troops in both cities, though dozens of people are reported dead in the latest violence.

Control of Ajdabiya has reportedly shifted between government and rebel troops in the past two days. Government forces apparently captured the city during the day on Tuesday, but retreated by evening. On Wednesday, the city was under attack by airplanes, tanks and mortars. At the end of the day, the rebels still appeared to control much of the city.

According to a doctor in the city, at least 26 people have died in Ajdabiya in the past two days. On Tuesday, Libyan state TV reported that Ajdabiya was "totally controlled and is being cleansed of armed gangs." However, a rebel official later said that "[t]here's heavy, sustained tank shelling and earlier there were air strikes, but now the revolutionaries managed to take seven tanks from those dogs and, God willing, we will succeed."

Rebel leaders also claimed that warplanes and a helicopter under their command had been involved in the fighting, and said they had superior weapons than government forces. Outside the city, however, government forces were reported to be amassing several hundred troops, as well as increasing supplies of ammunition and weaponry.

In Misrata, rebels claim that they had repelled government forces using tanks and other artillery weapons, though this could not be confirmed. Eleven people are reported to have died on Wednesday in Misrata.

International diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation continue. French president Nicolas Sarkozy wrote to the UN Security Council in support of a proposed resolution that includes the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya. The international community is still split on the idea of military intervention, though; while the Arab League supports a no-fly zone, a G8 meeting on Tuesday ended without support for the idea.