Libyan pro-Gaddafi forces try to retake Zawiyah

March 1, 2011

Hélène Mulholland, The Guardian

The Gaddafi regime appears to be attempting to retake territory captured by opposition forces as international pressure grows on the isolated Libyan leader.

Government opponents in the rebel-held town of Zawiyah, close to Tripoli, repelled an attempt by forces loyal to Gaddafi to retake the city in six hours of fighting, according to witnesses.

The rebels, including army forces who switched sides, are armed with tanks, machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.

They fought back pro-Gaddafi troops whose attack began from six directions on Monday night. There were not details of casualties in Zawiyah, which is 30 miles west of Tripoli.

A similar attempt was made by pro-Gaddafi forces on Monday night to retake the city of Misrata, Libya‘s third-largest city 125 miles east of Tripoli. Rebel forces there repelled the attackers.

One witness told the Associated Press: “We will not give up Zawiyah at any price. 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.”

Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya for 41 years, has already lost control of the eastern half of the country since protests began two weeks ago. He still holds the capital Tripoli and some nearby cities.

In an apparent attempt to show that the regime is continues to feel compassion for areas in the east that have fallen under the control of its opponents, Tripoli sent an aid convoy to the second city of Benghazi.

A total of 18 trucks loaded with rice, wheat-flour, sugar and eggs left Tripoli on Tuesday for Benghazi, 620 miles east of the capital. Also in the convoy were two refrigerated cars carrying medical supplies.

The US moved naval and air forces closer to Libya on Monday and said all options were open. Some EU countries, including Britain, have floated the idea of a no-fly zone over Libya. France said it would fly aid to the opposition-controlled eastern half of the country.

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