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Libyan Civil War Continues, as Sirte Defenses Breached

In my continuing quest to get people to realize that there’s still a civil war on in Libya, let me mention the fact that rebel forces have entered Sirte, one of the last remaining Gadhafi strongholds, from the east.

Anti-Gaddafi fighters have breached the former Libya leader’s hometown of Sirte from the east for the first time, as their three-day long assault continues.

Soldiers traded rocket fire with Gaddafi loyalists as they edged from the eastern suburbs into the city.

The advance comes two days after the soldiers, loyal to the National Transitional Council, attacked from the west before retreating again.

If the rebels centralize their effort in Sirte before moving on to other strongholds, they are likely to win a war of attrition. Rebels have reached the main roundabout and pulled down the signature green flags of the Gadhafi regime.

But in the other Gadhafi redoubt, in Bani Walid, rebel fighters are walking away from the fight. The city’s terrain makes it more impervious to attack; the pro-Gadhafi loyalists hold the high ground along the mountain ravines, and are just firing down on the rebels. Forces from Bani Walid are moving to Sirte, hoping that victory there will allow a stronger focus on Bani Walid. These are pretty much the last two cities not in rebel control. NATO warplanes continue to support assaults on both cities.

Meanwhile, a major fuel storage warehouse fire burned in Tripoli over the weekend. There’s been at least one death and numerous cases of smoke inhalation.

We’re still waiting on the final word from the Transitional National Council on a new interim government. This government would rule for a period of months until new national elections. But the rebels don’t really want to announce the new government until they have secured Bani Walid and Sirte. And that could take some time.

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David Dayen

David Dayen