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Libya Update

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Gaddafi Loyalist forces falling back:

Rebel forces, battered and routed by loyalist fighters just the day before, began to regroup in the east as allied warplanes destroyed dozens of government armored vehicles near the rebel capital, Benghazi, leaving a field of burned wreckage along the coastal road to the city. By nightfall, the rebels had pressed almost 40 miles back west toward the strategic crossroads city of Ajdabiya, witnesses and rebel forces said. And they seemed to consolidate control of Benghazi despite heavy fighting there against loyalist forces on Saturday.

There was evidence, too, that the allies were striking more targets in and around Tripoli, the capital. More explosions could be seen or heard near the city center, where an international press corps was kept under tight security constraints. Recurring bursts of antiaircraft guns and a prolonged shower of tracers arced over the capital on Sunday night.

Also B-2 strikes near Misurata. The hope now appears to be for mass defections from the Gaddafi Loyalist forces, which would presumably eliminate the need for an advance against Tripoli and a bloody seizure of the capitol. Both outcomes remain possible. At the very least, it seems clear that the operation has succeeded in preventing Gaddafi’s seizure of Benghazi.  And the rebels seem happy:

A spokesman for the rebels told the television network al-Jazeera on Sunday that more than 8,000 Libyans who had joined their movement had been killed in the revolt. There was anger among residents and rebel fighters at what they called the international community’s slowness in authorizing a no-fly zone and other measures to stop the growing tide of civilian casualties.

But after the missiles landed, such sentiments evaporated.

“The French planes did this,” yelled Walid Abdsalam Houas, a 25-year-old fighter who waved his Kalashnikov in triumph. “I feel so good. This is the best feeling I have had in a long time.”

We can hope that those sentiments are widespread, and that they last.

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