Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

Video: Milan is starting point for Syrian refugees’ European odyssey

Read more

WEB NEWS

Russian aid convoy: Mission accomplished?

Read more

WEB NEWS

Actor Orlando Jones lauches 'Bullet Bucket Challenge'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Macron Economics'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Macron-economics, the former banker turned minister

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'The capital of sex, drugs, alcohol, trash and trashy tourism'

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

French government crisis: 'Krankreich' not Frankreich

Read more

DEBATE

Hollande's Last Chance: Can Weakened President Reform Without Left Flank? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Hollande's Last Chance: Can Weakened President Reform Without Left Flank?

Read more

  • Video: Milan is starting point for Syrian refugees’ European odyssey

    Read more

  • France’s Hollande puts young ex-banker in top economy post

    Read more

  • Video: Iraq’s Yazidis flee to spiritual capital of Lalish

    Read more

  • Liberia's president sacks ministers who left amid Ebola outbreak

    Read more

  • Airstrikes and Assad - Obama’s military conundrum in Syria

    Read more

  • IMF’s Lagarde put under formal investigation in French corruption case

    Read more

  • American journalist held captive in Syria arrives in US

    Read more

  • In pictures: France’s new ministers

    Read more

  • 'Lasting' ceasefire agreed for Gaza, Abbas says

    Read more

  • Far-right ‘Russian Jihad’ fighters cross into Ukraine

    Read more

  • American 'Islamic State fighter' killed in Syria

    Read more

  • The ‘war’ at the heart of France’s ruling party

    Read more

  • Burger King to buy Canada's Tim Hortons for $11 billion

    Read more

  • Rebels 'shoot down' UN helicopter in South Sudan

    Read more

  • Air France pilots threaten September strike

    Read more

  • WHO seeks stricter regulation for e-cigarettes

    Read more

Africa

Gaddafi forces step up attacks in west and east Libya

Video by Inès OLHAGARAY , Catherine VIETTE

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-03-08

Libyan forces stepped up their offensive to crush a popular uprising against Muammar Gaddafi Tuesday using rockets, tanks and warplanes to attack rebel strongholds in the east and the west.

REUTERS - Libyan government forces attacked rebels with rockets, tanks and warplanes on western and eastern fronts, intensifying their offensive to crush the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi.

Rising casualties and the threats of hunger and a refugee crisis increased pressure on foreign governments to act, but they struggled to agree a strategy, many fearful of moving from sanctions alone to military action.
 
France 24's Cyril Vanier reports on Gaddafi forces renewed attacks on rebel positions near Ras Lanuf
In besieged Zawiyah, the closest rebel-held city to Tripoli, trapped residents cowered from the onslaught on Tuesday.
 
"Fighting is still going on now. Gaddafi's forces are using tanks. There are also sporadic air strikes ... they could not reach the centre of the town which is still in the control of the revolutionaries," a resident called Ibrahim said by phone.
 
"Many buildings have been destroyed including mosques. About 40 to 50 tanks are taking part in the bombardment."
 
In the east, much of which is under rebel control, warplanes bombed rebel positions around the oil port of Ras Lanuf.
 
Euphoria fades
 
Revolutionary euphoria seemed to have dimmed. "People are dying out there. Gaddafi's forces have rockets and tanks," Abdel Salem Mohamed, 21, told Reuters near Ras Lanuf. "You see this? This is no good," he said of his light machinegun.
 
 
Earlier, the rebels said they had rejected an offer from the Libyan leader to negotiate his surrender of power. The government called such reports "absolute nonsense".
 
Britain and France led a drive at the U.N. for a no-fly zone which would prevent Gaddafi from unleashing air raids or moving reinforcements by air. The Arab League and several Gulf states have also called for such a step.
 
"It is unacceptable that Colonel Gaddafi unleashes so much violence on his own people and we are all gravely concerned about what would happen if he were to try to do that on an even greater basis," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
 
Russia and China, who have veto power in the U.N. Security Council, are cool towards the idea of a no-fly zone.
 
The U.S. government, whose interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan enraged many of the world's Muslims, said it was weighing up military options and that action should be taken only with international backing.
 
Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman for the rebel National Libyan Council, told a news conference in the rebel base of Benghazi:
 
"We will complete our victory when we are afforded a no-fly zone. If there was also action to stop him (Gaddafi) from recruiting mercenaries, his end would come within hours."
 
Rebels still controlled the central square of Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, on Tuesday and were using loud hailers to urge residents to defend their positions, said a Ghanaian worker who fled the town on Tuesday.
 
Sky television footage of fighting in the town over the weekend showed crowds fleeing gunfire and a blood-spattered hospital crammed with the injured, some making victory signs from stretchers. It showed bodies of dead soldiers, others it said had switched sides, and captured tanks.
 
A government spokesman insisted troops were mostly in control on Tuesday. "Maybe 30-40 people, hiding in the streets and in the cemetery. They are desperate," he said in Tripoli.
 
A Libyan man who lives abroad said he spoke by phone on Tuesday to a friend in Zawiyah who described desperate scenes.
 
"Many buildings are completely destroyed, including hospitals, electricity lines and generators," he said.
 
"People cannot run away, it's cordoned off. They cannot flee. All those who can fight are fighting, including teenagers. Children and women are being hidden."
 
Tanks were firing everywhere, he said.
 
The reports could not be verified independently as foreign correspondents have been prevented from entering Zawiyah and other cities near the capital without an official escort.
 
Homes hit
 
Air strikes hit at rebels behind the no-man's land between the coastal towns of Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad, 550 km (340 miles) east of Tripoli and the site of oil terminals.
 
One strike smashed a house in a residential area of Ras Lanuf, gouging a big hole in the ground floor.
 
Mustafa Askat, an oil worker, said one bomb had wrecked a water pipeline and this would affect water supplies to the city.
 
"We have a hospital inside, we have sick people and they need water urgently," he said.
 
A convoy from the U.N. food agency was scheduled to reach the rebel-held port of Benghazi on Tuesday to deliver the first food aid in Libya since the revolt erupted three weeks ago.
 
Aid officials said the number of refugees crosing the border into Tunisia had slowed. It was unclear whether that was because they were being held back or were afraid to make the journey.
 
The rebel army -- a rag-tag outfit largely made up of young volunteers and military defectors -- made swift gains in the first week of the uprising which saw them take control of the east and challenge the government near Tripoli.
 
But their momentum appears to have stalled as Gaddafi's troops have pushed back with heavy weapons.
 
Rebels said government forces had dug in their tanks near Bin Jawad while rebels retreated to Ras Lanuf. The two towns are about 60 km (40 miles) apart on the strategic coastal road along the Mediterranean sea.
 
Libyan troops besieging the rebel-held city of Misrata left on Tuesday driving east towards Sirte with other pro-Gaddafi troops coming from Tripoli, a resident said by telephone.
 
Sirte, birthplace and stronghold of Gaddafi, lies on the coastal road to an emerging front line which divides the country along ancient regional lines with key oil facilities stuck in the middle.
 
72-hour deadline
 
Gaddafi has denounced the rebels as drug-addled youths or al Qaeda-backed terrorists, and said he will die in Libya rather than surrender.
 
"If he leaves Libya immediately, during 72 hours, and stops the bombardment, we as Libyans will step back from pursuing him for crimes," Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel National Libyan Council, told Al Jazeera television.
 
Representatives of the Libyan opposition were meeting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Strasbourg on Tuesday evening before addressing the European Parliament.
 
EU states agreed to add the $70 billion Libyan Investment Authority to a sanctions list on Tuesday. The embargo already covers 26 Libyans including Gaddafi and his family.
 
The Libyan uprising is the bloodiest of a tide of protests against autocratic rulers in North Africa and Middle East which has already seen the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt dethroned.
 
The phenomenon has left the West struggling to formulate a new direction for a region that sits on vast reserves of oil.
 
Brent crude futures for April delivery fell $1.94 to $113.10 a barrel by 1737 GMT, after rising sharply on Monday.
 
Libyan oil trade has virtually been paralysed as banks decline to clear payments in dollars due to U.S. sanctions, trading sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

 

Date created : 2011-03-08

  • LIBYA

    A witness report from rebel-held Zintan in Libya

    Read more

  • LIBYA

    FRANCE 24 Exclusive interview with Muammar Gaddafi

    Read more

  • LIBYA

    Gaddafi denies exit talks as jets pound rebel positions

    Read more

COMMENT(S)