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Al-Zawiya Revolutionary City Celebrates Winning a Battle Against Forces of Dictator Qaddafi

March 1, 2011

News commentary
By Hassan El-Najjar
Editor of Al-Jazeerah, CCUN

Arabs have been waiting impatiently for Libyans to achieve their goal of ending the dictatorial regime of Mou'ammer Al-Qaddafi. Libyan revolutionaries have achieved most of their goal by controlling all of the country except the capital and the city of Sirt. It seems that the Libyan dictator does not want to accept the people's will to depose him. He has decided to fight to the end, causing more bloodshed and more suffering among Libyans.

The Libyan revolutionaries have established their own military council to defend the country and to help in the final attack on the dictator's headquarters in Tripoli. A national unity government is being established with representatives from all cities, headed by the former Minister of Justice, who is located in Bani Ghazi.

Yemenis, like all Arabs, were watching Aljazeera TV, which covers the Arab Revolution 24/7, hoping that the Libyan dictator leaves office as the Tunisian and Egyptian dictators did. Because he refused to do that so far, Yemenis have resumed their protests to throw out the regime of the Yemeni dicator, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Indeed, there are different types of dictators. Some of them are smart with good sports spirit, like Bin Ali, who accepted the defeat and left early on, without further bloodshed. There are also dum dictators, like Hosni Mubarak, who needed millionis and millions of Egyptians to tell him again and again that they did not want him anymore, until finally he got it. A third type of dictators are the bloody ones, like Qaddafi, who won't accept defeat and will do everything they can to cause more bloodshed, harm, and suffering to peopl before they are forced out by the force of arms.

Anyway, Yemenis are saying that they won't wait for Libyans to finish their job, so are the Iraqis who went out in protests all over Iraq on Friday, followed by Omanis yesterday.

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Rebel-held city near Tripoli celebrates battle win

By MAGGIE MICHAEL Associated Press

Mar 1, 2011, 10:09 AM EST

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) --

Residents of the Revolution-held city of Al-Zawiya (AP editors use the term "rebel-held" city) closest to Libya's capital passed out sweets and cold drinks to fighters Tuesday and celebrated with a victory march after they managed to repel an overnight attack by forces loyal to longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"Allahu Akbar (God is Great) for our victory," residents of Al-Zawiya chanted as they paraded through the city's main square. Some carried on their shoulders an air force colonel they said had just defected to the rebels' side.

Witnesses said pro-Gadhafi forces battled rebels for six hours overnight but could not retake control of the city 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli. They said the last of several assaults by the Gadhafi loyalists came at around 3 a.m. local time.

"We were worried about air raids but that did not happen," said one resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The Zawiya rebels, who include mutinous army forces, are armed with tanks, machine guns and anti-aircraft guns. They fought back pro-Gadhafi troops, armed with the same weapons, who attacked from six directions. There was no word on casualties.

"We will not give up Zawiya at any price," said one witness. "We know it is significant strategically. They will fight to get it, but we will not give up. We managed to defeat them because our spirits are high and their spirits are zero."

The witnesses in Zawiya said youths from the city were stationed on the rooftops of high-rise buildings in the city to monitor the movements of the pro-Gadhafi forces and sound the warning if they thought an attack was imminent. They also spoke about generous offers of cash by the regime for the rebels to hand control of the city back to authorities.

Since the revolt against Gadhafi's 41-year-old rule began two weeks ago, his regime has launched the harshest crackdown in the Arab world where authoritarian rulers are facing an unprecedented wave of uprisings. Gadhafi has already lost control of the eastern half of the country and at least two cities close to the capital - Zawiya and Misrata. He still holds the capital Tripoli and other nearby cities.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR says more than 110,000 people, mainly foreign migrants, have fled Libya to neighboring countries and thousands more are arriving at the borders.

International pressure to end the crackdown has escalated dramatically in the past few days.

The U.S. moved naval and air forces closer to Libya on Monday and said all options were open, including patrols of the North African nation's skies to protect its citizens from their ruler. The Obama administration is demanding that Gadhafi relinquish power immediately.

France said it would fly aid to the opposition-controlled eastern half of the country. The European Union imposed an arms embargo and other sanctions, following the lead of the U.S. and the U.N. The EU and the U.S. have also talked about the possibility of creating a no-fly zone over Libya.

However, Russia's top diplomat ruled out the idea as "superfluous" and said world powers must instead focus on fully using the sanctions the U.N. Security Council approved over the weekend. Others suggested the tactic - used successfully in northern Iraq and Bosnia - to prevent Gadhafi from bombing his own people. But Russia's consent is required as a veto-wielding member of the Security Council.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Tuesday urged Gadhafi to consider exile, saying she's worried the African nation could plummet into a "humanitarian disaster."

"It's important that he get off the stage," Rice said told CBS on "The Early Show."

She said that exile "may be an option that he looks at." But the ambassador added that not even that scenario would inoculate Gadhafi from possible prosecution "for the crimes that he and those closest to him have committed."

Pro-Gadhafi forces also tried Monday night to retake opposition-held Misrata, Libya's third-largest city 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of Tripoli. Rebel forces there also repelled the attackers.

In Misrata, pro-Gadhafi troops who control part of an air base on the city's outskirts tried to advance Monday. But they were repulsed by opposition forces, who included residents with automatic weapons and defected army units allied with them, one of the opposition fighters said.

No casualties were reported and the fighter claimed that his side had captured eight soldiers, including a senior officer.

The opposition controls most of the air base, and the fighter said dozens of anti-Gadhafi gunmen have arrived from farther east in recent days as reinforcements.

In Zawiya, an Associated Press reporter saw a large, pro-Gadhafi force massed on the western edge of the city Monday night, with about a dozen armored vehicles along with tanks and jeeps mounted with anti-aircraft guns.

An officer said they were from the elite Khamis Brigade, named after one of Gadhafi's sons who commands it. U.S. diplomats have said the brigade is the best-equipped force in Libya.

"We were able to repulse the attack. We damaged a tank with an RPG. The mercenaries fled after that," said a resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

He said Gadhafi called Zawiya's influential tribal leader Mohammed al-Maktouf and had warned him that if the rebels don't leave the city's main square by early Tuesday, they will be hit by warplanes.

Residents of Tripoli said the city was calm Tuesday but that some residents were anxious over what is seen there as a growing chance of foreign intervention.

"People are worried about foreign intervention," said one resident who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals. "Many Libyans see this as a conspiracy that will lead into dividing Libya to an eastern and western sectors. There will be massacres."

On Tuesday, Gadhafi's regime sought to show that it was the country's only legitimate authority and that it continued to feel compassion for areas in the east that fell under the control of its opponents.

A total of 18 trucks loaded with rice, wheat-flour, sugar and eggs left Tripoli for Benghazi, the country's second largest city 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) east of the capital. Also in the convoy were two refrigerated cars carrying medical supplies.

The convoy was met with a small pro-Gadhafi demonstration as it made its way out of Tripoli. "God, Gadhafi, Libya and that's it," chanted the demonstrators.

"The state is very generous with the people," said 22-year-old Ahmed Mahmoud as he watched the convoy.

In Benghazi, the epicenter of the opposition-controlled east, activists said they had no objection to the imposition of a no-fly zone over eastern Libya, but were divided whether to accept relief from the Gadhafi regime.

"Gadhafi's air force is a serious threat to us," said lawyer Nasser Bin Nour. "We will welcome a no-fly zone on Gadhafi's warplanes over the whole of Libya. The only thing we object to is foreign troops on Libyan soil." said Bin Nour, who said many in the city would not oppose shelling the positions of pro-Gadhafi forces by foreign warships or planes.

Another Benghazi activist, Najlaa al-Manqoush, echoed Bin Nour's comments on foreign aid, but pointed out that to accept the relief supplies sent Tuesday by the regime would help Gadhafi's propaganda machine.

"We reject any attempt by the regime to beautify its image in the media," she said. "We are much smarter than that. We accept all the aid they send us from friendly nations, but not from Gadhafi."

U.S. warns of Libya civil war if Gaddafi stays

Rebels hold shells as they take stock of weapons and ammunition in a munitions storage hanger at a government military base which they have taken over in Ajdabiyah March 1, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

More evacuees depart Libya (01:41) Report

By Maria Golovnina

TRIPOLI | Tue Mar 1, 2011 10:50am EST

TRIPOLI (Reuters) -

Libya could descend into civil war if Muammar Gaddafi refuses to quit, the United States said on Tuesday, its demand for an end to his rule carrying new weight after word of unspecified Western military preparations.

But the veteran Libyan leader remained defiant, sending forces to a western border area amid fears that the most violent Arab revolt may grow more turbulent and trigger a regional humanitarian crisis.

In Moscow, a Kremlin source suggested Gaddafi should step down, calling him a "living political corpse who has no place in the modern civilized world," Interfax news agency reported.

In prepared testimony to U.S. lawmakers in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Libya could become a democracy or face a drawn-out civil war.

"In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy or it could face protracted civil war," she said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Washington would keep pressure on Gaddafi until he steps down, while working to stabilize oil prices and avert a possible humanitarian crisis.

Speaking in a series of interviews on U.S. television, Rice stopped short of saying the Obama administration was ready to impose a no-fly zone over Libya that would prevent Gaddafi from using aircraft against rebels fighting against him.

"We are going to keep the pressure on Gaddafi until he steps down and allows the people of Libya to express themselves freely and determine their own future," Rice told ABC television.

Gaddafi appeared unmoved by the outside pressure, and suspicions grew that the veteran leader, a survivor of numerous coup attempts during his rule, did not grasp the unprecedented scale of the forces now gathering against him.

"All my people love me," he told the U.S. ABC network and the BBC on Monday, dismissing the significance of a rebellion against his rule that has ended his control over much of eastern Libya, the center of oil output.

Around the Libyan capital there were queues outside bread shops on Tuesday morning. Some residents said many bread shops were limiting the number of loaves customers could buy, forcing people to visit several to get needed supplies.

"The situation is nervous," said Salah, a 35-year-old doctor at one bread shop where about 15 people were queuing outside.

"Of course I am worried. My family is afraid. They are waiting at home. We have been hearing gun-fire.

"But the people are together. I hope the situation calms down. I am 35 and this is the first time I saw something like this in Libya. It is very scary."

TV SIGNALS REPORTED DISRUPTED

A Tripoli resident said the main state television station, Jamahiriya, was no longer available on its usual satellite channel. He said Libiya, another of Libya's three television stations, which are all state controlled, had told viewers Jamahiriya's signal was being subjected to interference.

It was not clear if the interference was linked to a campaign, led by Libyan exile groups, to persuade satellite television operators to stop carrying Libyan television.

In the opposition bastion of Benghazi, residents said food and other necessities were in good supply despite the fact that many factories and shops had halted work since the revolt began.

Bank withdrawals were still limited and drivers said petrol, scarce a few days ago, had since returned to good supply.

"There have been no problems yet, the crisis is still fresh," said Hassan Ghorfany, 37, who works in a wholesale store selling food in Benghazi, adding that some but not all of his suppliers had stopped working.

On Monday evening the United States said it was moving ships and planes closer to the country and British Prime Minister David Cameron said his government would work to prepare a "no-fly" zone to protect the Libyan people.

Barely 12 hours later, Libyan forces re-asserted their presence at the remote Dehiba southern border crossing, decorating the border post with green Libyan flags.

Reporters on the Tunisian side saw Libyan army vehicles, and soldiers armed with Kalashnikov rifles. The previous day, there was no Libyan security presence at the border crossing. Dehiba is about 60 km (40 miles) from the town of Nalut.

In another part of the west, residents said pro-Gaddafi forces deployed to reassert control of Nalut, about 60 km from the Tunisian border in western Libya, to ensure it did not fall into the hands of anti-Gaddafi protesters.

A resident of the northern town of Misrata, Mohamed, told Reuters by telephone: "We are preparing a mass demonstration for this afternoon at 16:30 (9:30 a.m. EST). The town is calm so far."

Misrata has been under the control of anti-Gaddafi rebels for several days, local people say. Witnesses have said that a unit of the paramilitary force led by Khamis Gaddafi, a son of Gaddafi, controls a part of a military airbase outside Misrata.

GADDAFI SCOFFS AT REVOLT

Despite his continued hold on Tripoli, his last remaining stronghold and home to more than 1.5 million people, Gaddafi's power to influence events in his vast desert country has shrunk dramatically in the past two weeks.

Numerous tribal leaders, officials, military officers and army units have defected to the rebels, taking with them swathes of the country of six million including the energy-producing east. Sanctions will squeeze his access to funds.

In Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on world powers to fully implement a U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya. The text, adopted on Saturday, includes a freeze on Muammar Gaddafi's assets, travel ban and referring his regime's brutal crackdown to the International Criminal Court.

In another sign diplomacy was moving up a gear, European diplomats said the European Union (EU) would hold a special summit on Libya and North Africa in Brussels on March 11.

Injecting a note of caution into Western military thinking, France said humanitarian aid must be the priority in Libya rather than military action to oust Gaddafi.

In a potential blow to Gaddafi, Libya's National Oil Corporation said Libya's oil output had halved because of the departure of oil workers, although installations were undamaged and NOC was still overseeing Libya's oil production and exports.

REFUGEES' ANGER AT THE BORDER

At Ras Jdir on the border with Tunisia, there was growing frustration from the thousands of Egyptian refugees angry that other nationalities were being transported away from the frontier but they were not.

Some tore branches from trees and waved them around like clubs, and there were arguments with local officials.

Revolutions in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt have helped to ignite resentment of four decades of often bloody political repression under Gaddafi as well as his failure to use Libya's oil wealth to tackle widespread poverty and lack of opportunity.

Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics, wrote that the major losers of the wave of Arab uprisings were "the autocratic rulers who have bled their societies dry, used blood and iron to suppress dissent, and neglected the hopes and aspirations of their citizens."

(Additional reporting by Yvonne Bell and Chris Helgren in Tripoli, Dina Zayed and Caroline Drees in Cairo, Tom Pfeiffer, Alexander Dziadosz and Mohammed Abbas in Benghazi, Yannis Behrakis and Douglas Hamilton; Christian Lowe and Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, Souhail Karam and Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Rabat; Samia Nakhoul, William Maclean and Alex Lawler in London, Tom Heneghan in Paris, Writing by William Maclean; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

 

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More:

 

Libya's military: what does Gaddafi have left? 7:40am EST

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AP AUDIO AP Correspondent Maggie Michael reports Tripoli is calm during the day as the regime attempts to show it has the authority to return life to normal.

AP AUDIO AP Correspondent Maggie Michael reports militia loyal to the regime have unsuccessfully attempted to take back two rebel held cities.

AP AUDIO Libyan rebels have won a battle for a city. More from AP Middle East Correspondent Mark Lavie.

AP AUDIO AP Middle East Correspondent Mark Lavie reports Libyan rebels have pushed back an attempt by government forces to retake a city.

AP AUDIO AP Middle East Correspondent Mark Lavie reports opponents to Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi have pushed back an attempt to recapture a city.

AP AUDIO This is the sound of civilian volunteers undergoing military training in Benghazi.

AP AUDIO A Benghazi resident says his life is slowly returning to normal in the rebel controlled city.

AP AUDIO Former Libyan minister Ali Alrishi says Moammar Kadhafi has no intention of fighting to the "last bullet."

AP AUDIO Former Libyan minister Ali Alrishi is certain that his country will be much better off without Moammar Kadhafi and his family.

AP AUDIO Former Libyan government minister Ali Alrishi says Moammar Gadhafi's security troops have committed massacres.

Interactive

Inside Libya

Interactives

UN: Libyan refugee 'crisis' tops 140,000

Malta refusing to return Libyan fighter jets

Rebel-held city near Tripoli celebrates battle win

Russia's FM knocks down no-fly zone for Libya

Urging Gadhafi to go, US suggests exile

Defiant Tripoli neighborhood endures crackdowns

Chavez says he won't condemn Libya's Gadhafi

US: Gadhafi's denials of violence are 'delusional'

Obama thanks Canada for sanctions against Libya

Rebel force in eastern Libya faces challenges

Arms watchdog suspects Belarus-Libya transports

US: Libya fires anti-Gadhafi ambassador to US

Treasury says $30 billion in Libyan assets frozen

UN humanitarian chief worried over Libya access

Clinton: US sending aid teams to Libya's borders




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