The uprising in Libya is fast becoming a civil war. There does not seem to be a quick solution. The rebel forces control cities on both sides of the capital Tripoli. The greatest weight of anti-government forces are located in the eastern city of Benghazi. Roughly half-way between Benghazi and Tripoli lies Gaddafi’s birthplace, the pro government stronghold of Sirte.
For the rebels to take the fight from Benghazi to Tripoli is 900 km (600 miles) of desert with no friendly gas station at Sirte.
That’s all Sirte was until Gaddafi seized power 40 years ago: a gas station. Now, it has swollen to a real city of 130,000 people who are fiercely loyal to the government that has lavished expensive development projects on them for four decades.
Late last week, rebel forces began the push west from Benghazi along the coast highway. They fought intense ground battles Sunday with pro government forces who hit them with artillery and helicopter gunships.
Witnesses say one helicopter was shot down and crashed into the sea.
Rebel forces took the key oil port of Brega and the city of Ras Lanouf last week and secured them after seesaw battles for control.
Control of Brega is strategic: it is the country’s number two oil export facility, also, it supplies all the fuel to rebel stronghold Benghazi, and any jets based at the Brega airfield could control the coast highway all the way to Benghazi.
Government forces retook the city of Bin Jawwad located 175 km (110 miles) east of Sirte. Now, rebel forces will have to re-take it before they can get to Sirte.
Ahmed, a fighter in Zawiya said, “This is a catastrophe. This is a real war.”
Meanwhile, Gaddafi, who is either the most confident of Arab leaders or the biggest Pollyanna, has decided to celebrate the victories of late. He has decreed the end of import tariffs on staples and ended taxes of consumption and production. The new tax relief was announced on state TV. The report explained the good news “on the occasion of the great Libyan victories over the terrorist gangs”.
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