Libyan rebels said Sunday that they had taken full control of the western port city of Misrata, 125 miles from Tripoli, the only major city in western Libya with a significant rebel toehold. The rebel claim could not be confirmed.
In Misrata, rebel fighter Abdel Salam described the situation in Misrata as static. "The situation is almost frozen, as the rebels are in full control over Misrata," he said. "The rebels are not engaged in any major fighting fronts with Gadhafi forces."
The two sides have been battling intensively over Misrata, symbolic because of its location near Gadhafi's capital. His forces shelled the city heavily and at some points took up positions inside Misrata neighborhoods to fire at civilians and fighters, while avoiding NATO air strikes. Rebels and residents say Gadhafi forces remain at the edges of the town.
More than 1,000 people have died in Misrata in the fighting and shelling.
Salam denied earlier reports suggesting that rebels were advancing toward the western city of Zlitan, which would be the next step on the road to Tripoli. "The rebels agreed that it is better not to move forward or open new fronts," he said.
The head of Britain's armed forces, Gen. David Richards, appeared to relate to the standoff and frustration in the West over the slow pace of warfare in Libya, with Gadhafi still in power, able to taunt NATO for failing to unseat him.
In remarks published in the Sunday Telegraph in London, Richards urged NATO to widen the range of targets the alliance's planes are allowed to hit in the effort to stymie the Gadhafi regime's attacks on protesters. Richards declared that "more intense military action" was needed or the conflict could end in stalemate.
While refusing to comment on the reported attack on Ras Lanouf, which is about halfway between Tripoli and the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya, a NATO spokesman in Naples who declined to give his name said there was a NATO air strike at midday Sunday near Zawara, 30 miles from the Tunisian border. He said it was a strike on a pro-Gadhafi military position where there was equipment being used to target civilians.
Tunisia's TAP news agency said that NATO planes had bombed barracks and radar installations in the Libyan town of Boukamache, about 11 miles from the Tunisian border.
Libyans have been pouring from Boukamache across to Tunisia via the Ras Jdir border post, the report said. Detonations could be heard from the Ras Jdir border post, where the Tunisian army has been in a state of alert since Saturday after a blackout on the Libyan side.
Developments in the Region
Syria: Gunfire and explosions hit the Syrian border town of Talkalakh, as hundreds of civilians poured into neighboring Lebanon to escape a harsh crackdown on antigovernment protests. Those fleeing Talkalakh were among more than 5,000 Syrians who have fled to Lebanon as security forces try to crush the protests.
Egypt: Scores of mostly Coptic Christian protesters were injured when their demonstration blocking a street near the heart of downtown Cairo was attacked by motorists and residents as riot police stood by. The attacks came hours after an explosion at the tomb of a Muslim saint and a week after sectarian clashes left 15 dead and 200 injured.
The Arab League chose a new leader after Egypt switched candidates at the last minute to avert a divisive vote for a post that is usually determined by consensus. The league endorsed Egypt's foreign minister, Nabil Elaraby, to replace Amr Moussa, whose term expired and who is planning to run for president of Egypt. Moussa, 74, held the Arab League post for a decade.
- Associated Press