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Libyan rebels struggle to advance

Published 22/03/2011

An image taken from Libyan state TV of Muammar Gaddafi addressing a large crown in Bab El Azizia (AP)
An image taken from Libyan state TV of Muammar Gaddafi addressing a large crown in Bab El Azizia (AP)
Libyan rebels retreat as mortars from Gaddafi's forces are fired on them (AP)
A Libyan rebel guards the frontline in the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, eastern Libya (AP)
Libyan rebel fighters leave on top of an anti-aircraft machine gun towed by a loaded truck of ammunition supplied by an ammunition storage wear house, unseen in the eastern town of Brega, Libya Wednesday, March 9, 2011. Moammar Gadhafi says Libyans will fight if a no-fly zone is imposed by Western nations, saying that would show their real intention is to seize the country's oil. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Libyan rebels walk past wrecked military vehicles belonging to Moammer Khaddafi forces bombed by the French airforce in al-Wayfiyah west of Benghazi
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The US fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 3rd Class, Jeramy Spivey)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - MARCH 19: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn March 19, 2011. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - MARCH 19: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn March 19, 2011. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
MEDITERANEAN SEA (March 19, 2011) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jeramy Spivey/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - MARCH 19: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn March 19, 2011. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - MARCH 19: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn March 19, 2011. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
German Tornado fighter jets are a parked on the tarmac of the Italian Airforce airbase in Decimomannu on the Italian Sardinia island, Sunday, March 20, 2011. NATO's top decision-making body is poised to decide whether the alliance will join in the coalition onslaught on Libya. Diplomats said NATO's military planners are due to present on Sunday final action plans to the North Atlantic Council. The body should then decide whether the alliance will join the coalition operation or just provide logistic, intelligence and other support to the nations taking part in the intervention. (AP Photo/Enrico Locci)
An F-16 jet fighter flies over the NATO airbase in Aviano, Italy, Sunday, March 20, 2011. NATO's top decision-making body is set to decide whether the alliance will join in the strikes on Libya. Diplomats said NATO's military planners are due to present final action plans to the North Atlantic Council on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Libyan government soldiers stand guard at Moammar Gadhafi's Bab Al Azizia compound in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday March 19, 2011. President Barack Obama authorized limited military action against Libya Saturday, saying Moammar Gadhafi's continued assault on his own people left the U.S. and its international partners with no other choice. The Pentagon said 112 cruise missiles were launched from US and UK ships and subs, hitting 20 targets. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, MC3 Jonathan Sunderman)
Aisha Gadhafi, center, daughter of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, is surrounded by supporters at the Bab Al Azizia compound in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday March 19, 2011. President Barack Obama authorized limited military action against Libya Saturday, saying Moammar Gadhafi's continued assault on his own people left the U.S. and its international partners with no other choice. The Pentagon said 112 cruise missiles were launched from US and UK ships and subs, hitting 20 targets. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Tracers from anti aircraft fire are seen above the hotel where foreign media and government officials are staying in Tripoli, Libya, Sunday March 20, 2011. Anti-aircraft fire erupted in the Libyan capital on Sunday, marking the start of a second night of international strikes as a defiant Moammar Gadhafi vowed a "long war." The U.S. military said the allied bombardment so far, using a rain of Tomahawk cruise missiles and strikes by long-range bombers, had been successful in diminishing Gadhafi's air defenses. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
A Libyan rebel celebrates on a tank belonging to the forces of Moammar Gadhafi in the outskirts of Benghazi, eastern Libya, Sunday, March 20, 2011. The tanks were destroyed earlier by NATO planes. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
An RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft flies into RAF Marham, in Norfolk. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday March 20, 2011. See PA story POLITICS Libya. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Handout photo dated 19/03/11 issued by the Ministry of Defence of final preparations being made to an RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft for the first UK air combat mission in support of UN Resolution 1973. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday March 20, 2011. See PA story POLITICS Libya. Photo credit should read: SAC Lisa Conway/MoD/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Handout photo dated 19/03/11 issued by the Ministry of Defence of final preparations being made to an RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft for the first UK air combat mission in support of UN Resolution 1973. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday March 20, 2011. See PA story POLITICS Libya. Photo credit should read: SAC Lisa Conway/MoD/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Previously unreleased photo dated 19/03/11 of an RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft accelerating up the runway at the end of the runway at RAF Marham, in Norfolk. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday March 20, 2011. Three RAF Tornado jets left the UK on Saturday night, the first of the British strikeforce tasked with enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya. See PA story POLITICS Libya. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
A bus burns on a road leading to the outskirts of Benghazi, eastern Libya, Sunday, March 20, 2011. The U.S. military said 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from American and British ships and submarines at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya's air force. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
In this Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 2nd Class, Nathan Pappas)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 3rd Class, Jeramy Spivey)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, MC3 Jonathan Sunderman)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, MC3 Jonathan Sunderman)
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) as it launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn from the Mediterranean Sea . The U.S. fired more than 100 cruise missiles from the sea while French fighter jets targeted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the air on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Fireman Roderick Eubanks)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 20: (NO SALES; NO ARCHIVE) In this handout image provided by CBS News, U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, appears on "Face The Nation" March 20, 2011 in Washington, D.C., Mullen spoke about the U.S. and coalition airstrikes strikes in Libya. (Photo by Chris Usher/CBS News via Getty Images)
LAKENHEATH, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been reviewed by U.S. Military prior to transmission.) In this handout image provided by the U.S. Air Force, 492nd FS commander, prepare to taxi their F-15E Strike Eagle prior to their departure from RAF Lakenheath in preparation for Operation Odyssey Dawn missions March 19, 2011 in Lakenheath, United, Kingdom. Approximately 112 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targeting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Lee A. Osberry Jr./U.S. Air Force via Getty Images)
MARHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: Weapons are moved on a trolley at Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military gorces have fired more than 110 missiles, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
MARHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: A Tornado GR4 aircraft takes off from Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military forces have fired more than 110 missiles, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
MARHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: A Tornado GR4 aircraft takes off from Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military forces have fired more than 110 missiles, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
NORFOLK, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: (NO SALES NO ARCHIVE) In this handout from the Ministry of Defence, a RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft is prepared for launch, the first UK air combat mission in support of UN Resolution 1973, at RAF Marham on March 19, 2011 in Norfolk, England. Col Muammar Gaddafi has vowed a "long war" against the "crusader aggression" after over 100 missiles were fired by the US and UK, during multi-national action. (Photo by SAC Lisa Conway/MoD via Getty Images)
BRIZE NORTON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: (NO SALES NO ARCHIVE) In this handout from the Ministry of Defence, Royal Air Force VC10 and Tristar air-to-air refuelling aircraft support the first UK air combat mission in support of UN Resolution 1973 in flight on March 19, 2011. Col Muammar Gaddafi has vowed a "long war" against the "crusader aggression" after over 100 missiles were fired by the US and UK, during multi-national action aimed at enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone. (Photo by SAC Neil Chapman/MoD via Getty Images)
BRIZE NORTON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 19: (NO SALES NO ARCHIVE) In this handout from the Ministry of Defence, Royal Air Force VC10 and Tristar air-to-air refuelling aircraft support the first UK air combat mission in support of UN Resolution 1973 in flight on March 19, 2011. Col Muammar Gaddafi has vowed a "long war" against the "crusader aggression" after over 100 missiles were fired by the US and UK, during multi-national action aimed at enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone. (Photo by SAC Neil Chapman/MoD via Getty Images)
MARHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: Two Tornado GR4 aircraft taxi for take off from Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military forces have fired more than 110 missiles, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
MEDITERANEAN SEA (March 19, 2011) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targetting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Jeramy Spivey/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - MARCH 19: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, seen through night-vision lenses aboard amphibious transport dock the USS Ponce, the USS Barry fires Tomahawk cruise missiles in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn March 19, 2011 in the Mediterranean Sea. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines targeting about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. (Photo by Nathanael Miller/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: Anti-war protesters take part in a demonstration on March 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Anti-war protesters were demonstrating marking the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and demanding for no war in Libya. (Photo by Trixie Textor/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: Anti-war protesters take part in a demonstration on March 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Anti-war protesters were demonstrating marking the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and demanding for no war in Libya. (Photo by Trixie Textor/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: Anti-war protesters take part in a demonstration on March 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Anti-war protesters were demonstrating marking the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and demanding for no war in Libya. (Photo by Trixie Textor/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic speaks at the anti-war protest on March 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Anti-war protesters were demonstrating marking the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and demanding for no war in Libya. (Photo by Trixie Textor/Getty Images)
AKROTIRI, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: A military AWAC aircraft lands at the British RAF Akrotiri airbase on March 20, 2011 in Cyprus. Defence analysts said the sovereign military airfield at Akrotiri could be used by the RAF to help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya against Col GaddafiÄôs offensive against outgunned Libyan rebels. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
MARHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 20: A Tornado GR4 aircraft is towed past the runway at Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military forces have fired more than 110 missiles at targets in Libya, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
MARHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: A Tornado GR4 aircraft takes off from Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on March 20, 2011 in England. The Pentagon says that United States and United Kingdom military forces have fired more than 110 missiles, with French planes attacking pro-Gaddafi forces near rebel-held Benghazi. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
A huge explosion is seen over the outskirts of Benghazi, eastern Libya (AP)
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez condemned the allied assault on Libya
Muammar Gaddafi
Libyan soldiers loyal to Gaddafi push forward at the western entrance of the city of Ajdabiya, Libya (AP)
Libyan soldiers loyal to Gaddafi fire in the air on the road leading to Ajdabiya, Libya (AP)
SALLUM, EGYPT - MARCH 17: The Alseyed family pack their luggage onto a bus for a ride to Cairo after clearing customs after entering Egypt at the Libyan/Egyptian border crossing on March 17, 2011 in Sallum, Egypt. The family left their home in Toburk, Libya because of the fighting that is nearing that area. Opposition forces have been losing ground as government troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi press a counter-offensive to the east. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A volunteer in Libya's rebel group sits on the back of a car on the outskirts of the eastern town of Ras Lanouf (AP)
A Libyan volunteer carries ammunition on the outskirts of the eastern town of Ras Lanouf, Libya, Thursday, March 10, 2011
A warplane is seen being shot down over the outskirts of Benghazi, eastern Libya, Saturday, March 19 ... the image shows the pilot has ejected from the plane, 2011.
A warplane is seen being shot down over the outskirts of Benghazi, eastern Libya, Saturday, March 19 ... the image shows the pilot has ejected from the plane, 2011.
Member states vote to approve a resolution that will impose a no-fly zone over Libya (AP)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron urged European allies to be ready for all 'contingencies' in Libya
Nato has started round-the-clock surveillance of the air space over Libya amid attacks by government jets on rebels
Anti-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi rebel rest next to his anti-aircraft machine gun, in Ras Lanouf town, eastern Libya, on Wednesday, March 9, 2011. A high-ranking member of the Libyan military flew to Cairo on Wednesday with a message for Egyptian army officials from Moammar Gadhafi, whose troops pounded opposition forces with artillery barrages and gunfire in at least two major cities. Gadhafi appeared to be keeping up the momentum he has seized in recent days in his fight against rebels trying to move on the capital, Tripoli, from territory they hold in eastern Libya.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Libyan rebels are struggling to take advantage of the aerial shield provided by international forces protecting them against most of Muammar Gaddafi's heavy weaponry.

Government forces shelled rebels regrouping in the dunes outside a key eastern city, while their snipers and tanks roamed the last major opposition-held city in the west.

The military air campaign appears to have impaired Gaddafi's air defences and artillery and rescued the rebels from impending defeat.

But the opposition force, with more enthusiasm than discipline, has failed to exploit the gains.

The international alliance has also shown fractures as officials struggle to articulate an endgame. China and Russia, which abstained from the UN Security Council vote authorising the intervention, called for a ceasefire after a night when strikes hit Tripoli, destroying a military seaport in the capital.

In an address shown on Libyan state television, a defiant Muammar Gaddafi said: "In the short term, we'll beat them, in the long term, we'll beat them."

The Libyan leader was said to have delivered the message to supporters at his residential compound near the capital Tripoli which was hit by an allied cruise missile on Sunday.

Most of eastern Libya is in rebel hands but their forces have struggled to make headway on the ground. Ajdabiya, a city of 140,000 that is the gateway to the east, has been under siege for a week. Outside the city, a ragtag band of hundreds of fighters milled about, clutching mortars, grenades and assault rifles.

Some men clambered up pylons in the rolling sand dunes of the desert, squinting as they tried to see Col Gaddafi's forces inside the city. The group periodically came under artillery attacks, some men scattering and others holding their ground.

Heavy anti-aircraft fire was lighting up the skies over Tripoli on Tuesday night and the sound of loud explosions echoing through the Libyan capital after nightfall. The gunfire appeared to signal a fourth night of US and European air operations over Libya to enforce a no-fly zone.

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