Libyan Forces Reportedly Defy Cease-Fire, Engage in Battle for Rebel Stronghold

March 19, 2011

Associated Press

BENGHAZI, Libya –  Libyan forces struck Saturday at the heart of the rebellion against Muammar al-Qaddafi, shelling the outskirts of the rebel capital and launching airstrikes in defiance of international demands for a halt to the fighting.

Leaders from the Arab world, Africa, the United States and other Western powers were holding urgent talks in Paris on Saturday over possible military action against Qaddafi’s forces, which are trying to crush the nearly 5-week-old rebellion against him.

Trying to outmaneuver Western military intervention, Qaddafi’s government declared a cease-fire on Friday as the rebel uprising faltered against his artillery, tanks and warplanes. But the opposition has said shells rained down well after the announcement and accused the Libyan leader of lying.

On Saturday, rebels shot down a warplane that was seen bombing the outskirts of the key rebel-held city of Benghazi, sending up a massive black cloud of smoke. An Associated Press reporter saw the plane go down in flames and heard the sound of artillery and crackling gunfire in the distance.

The fighting galvanized the people of Benghazi, with young men collecting bottles to make Molotov cocktails. Some residents dragged bed frames and metal scraps into the streets to make roadblocks.

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