The martyred hero Air Marshal Brigadier Ali Attalah Obeidi

Ali Attalah Obeidi, an air marshal brigadier who announced his defection from the Gaddafi regime in April and pledged allegiance to the revolution, was martyred today, July 6, along with 18 others.  Below is the picture of Ali Obeidi in the morgue.

إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ

Ali Obeidi is considered one of the top commanders in Misrata on the western front (Dafniya).  When Ali Obeidi would address his fellow freedom fighters, they would listen with attentative ears, because he would talk with such pride and dignity.

Below is the video in which Ali Obedi announced his defection back in April and his heroic escape from Mitiga airbase in Tripoli. (Press red button CC for translation)

Videos of the martyred hero Ali Obedi on the western Misrata front of Dafniya.

Video: Humanitarian call from a hospital in Misrata

March 23, 2011: This video from Misurata filmed on Wednesday appears to show  gunfire, sniper fire and a line of tanks in the city.

Translation:

(inaudible)

Cameraman: Hope you get better soon (to man on bed)

Doctor: This is one of the cases where the man was shot during the massacre of Misrata by the snipers inside one of the family houses.

Doctor: The other case is a fellow brother from egypt who was shot as well in the same manner by the snipers. We currently have alot of cases such as these who are waiting for surgery, over 60 cases.

Man in back: There is one man who got shot and the bullet is near his spinal cord.

Doctor: Alot of help is needed, whether its medical donations or general surgeons.

(cameraman wishes injured a safe and swift recovery)

Doctor: There are lot of lost cases, whereas there are other cases which need immediate surgery and some eye surgeries and spinal cord surgeries as well. These injuries call for the basic medical help in Misrata in order to save the patient’s life. Unfortunately, we don’t have alot of specialists in Misrata to help take care of these cases, such as eye or nerve specialists.

Doctor: There are also cases such as his where the patient need orthopedic surgery and follow-up surgeries as well, but there was not enough time to do that since our main goal in the first surgery was to save the patient’s life and to reduce the blood loss. We (the surgeons) do not have a balance in performing surgeries and checking up on patients, as we have priorities, and there are many injured. Our main goal is to save lives.

Cameraman: We are now going into the other room for injured patients which have been brought to this small hospital.  For more translation

Doctor: Allow me to add something which is quite disturbing. There are cases when we didn’t sterilize (scrub in) and now we have stopped since there is a shortage in supplies and as you know we are in a war. We wouldn’t even have the time to sterilize since we receive many injured, since there are no other hospitals to accept them even on the outskirts of the city.

Doctor: Even as you can see, this is not a proper ward, but it is a hallway/waiting area for patients. This is a child who has 2 broken bones, a fracture in his leg and the other in his arm. And this case needs care and a medical team, whether it is nurses or any one working in the hospital, just so we can reach the level of care/support needed.

(inaudible)

Doctor: There are many types of cases, such as broken bones and gunshot wounds. We have noticed that they are not using light artillery, but in fact are using heavy artillery.

Cameraman: Anti aircraft bullets

(injured youth raises his and in a victory sign while doctor is speaking)

Doctor: The problem with anti aircraft bullets is that it causes many injuries. In may cases, they were shot in the right leg and the bullet shot straight through to the left leg, destroying the bones in both legs. This even makes surgery impossible since the bones are crushed. This requires alot of time in surgery since there are many breaks in the bone which can not be fixed easily, and most of the bones are broken into small pieces, which causes us (surgeons) great distress in the surgeries. This brother here is from Syria. (motions to injured with the broken arm) He is one of the workers here in the city.

 

Doctor: Even the extensions that we are using are very simple. We use what is available to us be it to keep the bones straight or just making simple extensions such as this(motions to the extension) made in workshops in the city. This helps us to make sure that the broken bones mend properly and there are many, many many cases. Currently, there are more than 80 cases on the list, which need major surgeries and Allah knows when we will be able to do these surgeries. We ask Allah for success and to help us in these surgeries.

(moves along to other patient)

Cameraman: May Allah give you patience

Doctor: As you can see most of the patients have leg injuries, either the left or right leg or both. In some cases, we have to amputate the leg (inaudbile; moves along to other patients) The most hardest surgeries are the ones with multiple wounds and the eye surgeries. As you can see this ward is crowded, and as soon as a patient is able to move, he is taken home so we may have as many free available beds and supplies for the incoming patients. And we also tell the family how to care for them at home, as we no longer are able to cope with the influx of injured and give the care needed for the patient afterwards.

Cameraman: Any last words Doctor? Would you like to add anything else?

Doctor: We are in a very disastrous state. We need urgent medical help and humanitarian efforts in this city which has a very very low amount of medical supplies and medical teams. We need more than just a hospital. We need doctors, nurses and general surgeons. Especially orthopedic, ENT and eye surgeons. We need neurosurgeons as well, and many more since we have a small number of surgeons available. We also have a shortage of beds.

Cameraman: For how many days has there been a shortage of electricity?

Doctor: There has been a shortage of electricity for the past 20 days. And there is also a shortage in water supplies. Most surgeries are performed under battery powered lights which may turn off in the middle of surgery. This is a very tragic situation we are in now.

Doctor: I ask all of you who are hearing me in these moments, to do all that they can to help us in this humanitarian situation that we are in. I just want to add one last thing. When a patient arrives at this hospital, we do not ask him which side he is on and where he is from. We just ask what are your injuries and how were you injured. But by who he was injured, we do not ask, since it is not important at the  moment since we are a pillar of humanity and it doesn’t matter where he is from and which side he is on since it is not my specialization. I am a doctor and when i became one all that matters to me is to treat the patient. I ask Allah to help us all and thank you.

Cameraman: Thank you doctor!

LIVE: Libyan Unrest: Explosions heard in Tripoli but location remains unclear

We are tracking the latest developments to keep you updated on the situation on the ground. There are interactive maps located in the Protest map page to keep up with the latest movements. Also check out the featured twitters on the sidebar. On the Go? -Follow us on Twitter @Feb17Libya for the same live updates.

All updates are in Libyan local time.

That’s it for today’s live coverage on March 23rd – Check back shortly for the coverage on March 24.

Continue reading to catch up on all today’s events regarding Libya

2:19am: House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, has written to Barack Obama saying he is “troubled” by US involvement in Libya. “What is your benchmark for success in Libya?” he asks.

Footage: Graphic footage of children and babies in Misrata. Even children are not safe from Gaddafi Forces.

WARNING EXTREMELY GRAPHIC

These infant babies were injured in a Misrata children’s hospital that was shelled by Gaddafi forces.

Check out the latest maps out of Libya:

Main Attack sites Allied Military Assets

12:32pm: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says the Libyans must determine their own future. “It seems to me that if there is a mediation to be done […] it is among the Libyans themselves. This matter at the end of the day is going to have to be settled by Libyans,” he said, according to Reuters. He also said: “The president has made clear that the United States is not going to have the lead on this operation for the longer term, and in fact for more than a week or so.”

12:11pm: Libyan state news agency Jana is reporting that coalition raids have hit a residential neighbourhood east of the capital and killed “a large number” of civilians. The report cannot be verified.

12:05pm: Correspondents in Tripoli says more loud explosions have been heard in the capital over the past hour but their location is unclear. They say they appeared to come from the direction of Col Gaddafi’s compound, but could also have come from the Tajura district where reports say a military base has been hit.

11:58pm: Back to those reports of an airstrike on a military base in Tajura, near Tripoli: Witnesses have told AFP they can see flames coming from the base. Tajura – home to key Libyan military facilities – was struck by coalition forces on Saturday.

11:31pm: CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller tweets: “Official says US intervention in Libya is not a war but a military operation to be limited in duration and scope.”

11:21pm: Witnesses say a huge blast has hit a military base in the Tajura district 32km (20 miles) east of Tripoli. Libya’s official Jana news agency also said Tajura had been targeted twice on Wednesday.

11:15pm: Al-Arabiya news is reporting that it was Col Gaddafi’s compound in Ajdabiya that was targeted in an airstrike tonight, not his compound in Tripoli as was earlier reported. There is no independent confirmation of the report.

11:11pm: Correspondents in Tripoli say they can see tracer fire going up into the sky, but much less than on previous nights.

11:16pm: Al Jazeera English correspondent Anita McNaught, in Tripoli, journalists were driven around the city earlier today with a promise from the government of being taken to see the scene of a coaltion air strike, some civilian casualties, maybe even a hospital.But none of this happened. After being driven around for 45 minuets or so, we were being taken back to the hotel and they said they couldn’t find the right address.”

10:41pm: Reuters: Government tanks loyal to Gaddafi are positioned at the eastern and western entrances of the city of Ajdabiyah, Arabiya television reported.

Thanks for joining us again:

Here is a quick update of today’s developments:

Explosions and anti-aircraft fire have been heard in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, for a fourth night;
Col Gaddafi has given a defiant address to his supporters – the first time he’s appeared since international air strikes began;
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said figures close to Col Gaddafi are investigating possible options for exile; and coalition powers have been thrashing out a new command structure aimed at toning down US leadership.

10:14pm: More now on Hillary Clinton’s statement: She says the US wants the Libyan government to “make the right decision” by instituting a ceasefire, withdrawing forces and preparing for a transition of power that doesn’t include Col Gaddafi.

10:02pm: AJELive tweets: “Libyan authorities say they will release Al Jazeera’s reporting crew within 24 hours, after they were detained in west Libya last week.”

9:59pm: The French presidential source quoted by Reuters over a possible coalition steering group says: “The idea is to also invite countries who weren’t at the summit on Saturday who are interested in being involved. We need to have a place for all those who want to commit to help Libyans build a future and discuss the political framework.”

9:52pm: More on developments in Misrata: A witness has told AFP that pro-Gaddafi forces are shelling the hospital. A rebel spokesman said tanks were also shelling houses in the city. It is not possible to verify the reports.

9:44pm: Russia believes a ground invasion of Libya is almost a certainty, Kremlin foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko has told Itar-Tass news agency. “There is no co-ordinated plan in place and the operation can drag on,” he said.

9:27pm: The UN has issued a statement condemning the recent violence. It says: “The Secretary-General condemns the continued use of force in the western part of Libya, including Zintan and Misrata. Once again, he reiterates his call for an immediate end to violence by all parties, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, and for the responsibility to protect civilians. All those who violate international humanitarian and human rights law will be held fully accountable.”

9:24pm: Pro-Gaddafi forces have resumed shelling the besieged city of Misrata, which is almost totally cut off. “Government tanks are closing in on Misrata hospital and shelling the area,” a witness told Reuters by phone before the line was cut off.

9:17pm: Bombing raids appear to have resumed over Libya. A few minutes ago, Libyan state TV reported that the Tajoura area of Tripoli “was the subject of an imperialist, crusader raid against some civilian and military targets”. Meanwhile, a large blast was heard at a military base 32km (20 miles) east of the capital, witnesses told AFP.

8:38pm: Canada has carried out its first bombing raids over Libya, AP reports. In the attack near the besieged city of Misrata, four CF-18 jets, supported by two refuelling aircraft, carried out two separate bombing runs, said deputy chief of air force staff Maj Gen Tom Lawson. The Canadian planes dropped four laser-guided bombs near the besieged city of Misrata on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

8:29pm: More detail now on Nato’s failure to agree on taking over command of the Libya operation (815 entry). Reuters quotes a Nato diplomat who says there problems remained over the relationship between enforcing the no-fly zone and military operations to protect civilians, and how broad the mission should be.

8:06pm: The BBC’s John Simpson, who has just arrived in Tripoli, reports: “As you drive in from Libya’s western border with Tunisia, there are no signs of bombing but plenty of signs of the recent fighting between Col Gaddafi’s forces and rebels. Houses and shops have been hit by artillery or tank shells from the fighting last week. There’s often tension at the many roadblocks along the way. At one of them, we were held for 40 minutes while other vehicles were carefully searched. Any petrol the searchers found in them was poured out onto the ground and there was a lot of angry shouting. In the town of Zawiya, only about 20 minutes’ drive from Tripoli, there were many more signs of recent fighting in the outskirts, and our car was diverted a long way to the south to avoid the centre of town. The streets were filled with cars in Tripoli this afternoon and there were plenty of children in the schools, but it’s clear that the tension rises as night falls.”

7:52pm: Roshann Khadivi, a Unicef worker based at a refugee camp on the Tunisia-Libya border border, tells the BBC about the situation there: “The kind of people we are seeing cross continues to be – obviously – migrant workers, but we do see families. My colleagues on the Egyptian border with Libya say that they are seeing more and more Libyans, particularly women and children fleeing from eastern Libya because of the fighting and obviously they are quite scared and uncertain. However, saying this, we have seen an increase on the Tunisian border as well. The latest numbers show 6,000 in the three camps that we are monitoring here.

7:22pm: Abdul Rahman in Zintan has given an update to the BBC’s Arabic service: “Zintan was shelled twice today, once around midday and again in the afternoon. Each time the shelling lasted for about an hour. There are about 30,000 to 40,000 people in Zintan and the city is under siege. Nobody can come in or out. We are starting to have shortages in water, food, fuel and medicine.”

7:17pm : Libya’s official al-Jamahiriyah TV is reporting that “crowds of citizens – men, women, young people and children – now continue to pour into Bab al-Aziziya (Col Gaddafi’s compound) in Tripoli to join the masses that have been sitting in there for days”

7:09pm: Snipers from pro-Gaddafi forces killed 16 people in Misrata on Wednesday, rebel spokesman Hafiz Ghoga is quoted as saying by Reuters.

Footage: of captured Tanks and AA-Guns captured by the Revolutionaries in Zintan (March 22)

Cameraman is praising the youth of Zintan. Even though they have no military training, they have learned how to operate the machinery to battle the dictator.

7:01pm: Libyan TV has released their official version of the ”Zenga-Zenga” song (cringe)

5:56pm:Britain will host an international conference in London next Tuesday to discuss the Libyan crisis, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague announces. Mr Hague says: “At the conference we will discuss the situation in Libya with our allies and partners and take stock of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 (2011). We will consider the humanitarian needs of the Libyan people and identify ways to support the people of Libya in their aspirations for a better future. A wide and inclusive range of countries will be invited, particularly from the region. It is critical that the international community continues to take united and co-ordinated action in response to the unfolding crisis. The meeting will form a contact group of nations to take forward this work.”

5:51pm: US Rear Admiral Gerard Hueber says that there is no evidence that pro-Gaddafi forces are pulling back from the towns of Misrata and Ajdabiyah

5:20pm:US Rear Admiral Gerard Hueber says that Sorties flown by Non-US Coalition Nations over Libya is increasing

5:56pm: Currently in Benghazi a ”Thank You” rally is being held. Libyans are waving flags from the various nations that helped in the International Coalition, among them are French and Qatari flags. Signs of gratitude were also fashioned and being held.

5:30pm:Three journalists, including two from AFP, who were arrested in Libya at the weekend by Gaddafi’s forces arrived in neighbouring Tunisia after being freed overnight.

5:05pm:The Libyan air force “no longer exists as a fighting force”, the commander of Royal Air Force operation has said. Air Vice Marshall, Greg Bagwell, on a visit to RAF airmen based at Gioia del Colle in Southern Italy, said that the allies could now operate ‘with near impunity’ over the skies of Libya. He went on: ‘We have the Libyan ground forces under constant observation and we attack them whenever they threaten civilians or attack population centres.’

4:43pm:France’s Juppe says coalition partners to meet on Tuesday in London

4:35pm:In Misrata, eyewitnesses say the polyclinic has been a focus for attacks by pro-Gaddafi forces. One person in the area has told the BBC: “They have managed to surround the polyclinic with snipers… These snipers have taken the high buildings that surround the clinic to shoot… and they’re shooting on sight, whoever tries to come in or out of the polyclinic.”

4:05pm: @NicRobertsonCNN : Govt officials taking journalists into east Tripoli are lost and can’t find the so-called damaged house. Just driving around.

3:45pm:The Misrata doctor who spoke to the BBC World Service said he was worried that ambulance wokers and doctors were also at risk from snipers. “Our hospital is overcrowded,” he added. “We are treating people on the floor. We have stopped counting injured people, we just count the dead. We are dealing something you cannot believe.” The doctor said he was in favour of air strikes by the international coalition, “because those [pro-Gaddafi] troops, when they hear the aircraft in the sky, they escape”.

3:40pm:A doctor in Misrata has told the BBC World Service that there are no pro-Gaddafi tanks in the city today, “because all the tanks have either escaped or been destroyed by the allied forces”. But he says the hospital where he works is still surrounded by snipers loyal to Col Gaddafi. “They are shooting anybody going in or coming out of the hospital. Until now we have four civilian dead.”

3:27pm:Fighting in Ajdabiya near the eastern front, where AFP says residents are fleeing, describing shelling, gunfire and houses set on fire.

3:21pm: The reports of sniper fire in Misrata followed accounts that international forces had launched new air strikes near the rebel-held western city. They reportedly targeted a base south of the city used by pro-Gaddafi forces

2:50pm: European Union governments agreed on Wednesday to impose sanctions on Libya’s National Oil Company

2:35pm: Turkey, which has voiced opposition to Nato taking a commanding role in the Libya mission, has offered a submarine and warships to help enforce the arms embargo off the North African country, according to a Nato general cited by AFP.

2:30pm: As expected, Nato ships have started patrolling off Libya to enforce an arms embargo, AP reports.

2:25pm: Reuters has more on the air strikes reported at Misrata. It says they hit a base for pro-Gaddafi forces south of the city.

2:21pm: The Benghazi-based National Transitional Council has taken the step of declaring a government, to be headed by former foreign envoy Mahmoud Jibril. Nisan Gouriani, spokesman for the council, speaks to Al Jazeera’s James Bays about the political development.

2:12pm: British Prime Minister David Cameron says Kuwait and Jordan will make a logistical contribution to the Libyan effort. He says there’s great concern about what’s happening in Misrata.

2:09pm: A Misrata resident tells Reuters that pro-Gaddafi snipers are firing on a hospital and that at least three people have been killed.

2:06pm: And a view from Russia, which abstained from UN Security Council vote on Resolution 1973, but has since criticised international action. Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov tells parliament in Moscow: “We distanced ourselves from the support of military intervention with unpredictable results.” He added that prior to the adoption of the UNSC resolution on Libya, Russia had stressed such a decision should not be taken in a hurry, and had called for “using the political mechanisms that were already in place” to solve the crisis.

2:02pm: More on Libya from Turkish President Abdullah Gul: “It is important for Turkey that the situation in Libya ends without further bloodshed. Those who run Libya must step down immediately to ward off plunder of their country by others,” Mr Gul told reporters before his departure for Ghana from the Turkish capital, Ankara.

1:58pm: Zintan resident, quoted by Reuters: “Gaddafi’s brigades started bombardment from the northern area half an hour ago… The town is completely surrounded… They are getting reinforcements. Troops backed with tanks and vehicles are coming. We appeal to the allied forces to come and protect civilians.”

1:55pm:The Libyan rebels’ transitional national council has named Mahmoud Jabril to head an interim government and pick ministers. Mr Jabril is already in charge of a crisis committee to handle military and foreign affairs

1:50pm:The death toll on Tuesday from fighting in Misrata, where pro-Gaddafi forces were reported to be using shells and snipers, was 17, a doctor tells AFP. Five children were among those killed, the doctor says.

1:45pm:A resident in the western, rebel-held city of Zintan has told Reuters that pro-Gaddafi forces have resumed bombardment there.

1:43pm: Reuters has compiled a list of events that have happened to Date in the Battle for Libya

1:39pm:French government spokesman Francois Baroin has said Nato will have a “technical role” in the Libyan intervention, Reuters reports.

1:37pm:A spokesman for the newly formed “interim government”, declared by the transitional national council, tells Al Jazeera’s James Bays:

”The provisional national council is a legislative body, but we need an executive body to take control and provide an administration. Our position has been very clear, that Libya is one unit – our capital is Tripoli and will forever be Tripoli … We are striving to liberate the western parts of the country, and Tripoli, and keep the country united. We would like to emphasise this over and over again.”

1:35pm: The increasing focus on Misrata has highlighted some of the limitations of a no-fly zone, says a BBC corresponent, namely how to protect civilians in a confused city, rather than in the open desert. “One US commander acknowledged that international forces have been looking at options for Misrata, and reports of air strikes against Libyan government forces around the city may suggest a possible new phase of operations.”

1:30pm: So far in todays clashes in Misrata 14 have died and 28 injured

1:28pm:The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says there is “grave concern” for civilians in the areas of heavy fighting. It says medical needs are on the rise and that in addition to the 335,600 people who have fled Libya in recent weeks, there are reports that some 80,000 people have been displaced within the country.

1:08pm:From the BBC’s Grant Henderson: “3 RAF Typhoons and 2 RAF Tornados have taken off from Gioia del Colle airbase near Bari, southern Italy

1:04pm:More on the strikes in Misrata reported by Reuters: “The allied planes bombed twice so far. At 1245 (2245 GMT) this morning and then again less than two hours ago,” a resident tells the agency. “They (pro-Gaddafi forces) haven’t fired a single artillery (round) since the air strike.”

12:44pm:Coalition aircraft have launched two strikes against pro-Gaddafi forces in Misrata, Reuters reports.

12:35pm:General David Petraeus, the US general in charge of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, says he is not concerned that military action in Libya would divert resources from the war in Afghanistan

12:09pm: NATO warships – commanded from Naples, Italy, will begin patrolling Libya’s coast to enforce the UN arms embargo later today. The two flotilla will initially comprise two frigates, six minesweepers and a supply ship, a NATO official – unidentified under standing rules – told the Associated Press news agency.

11:30pm: The Battle for Benghazi

10:52AM: Here’s a quick recap of recent developments: Explosions and anti-aircraft fire have been heard in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, for a fourth night; Col Gaddafi has given a defiant address to his supporters – the first time he’s appeared since international air strikes began; US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said figures close to Col Gaddafi are investigating possible options for exile; and coalition powers have been thrashing out a new command structure aimed at toning down US leadership.

10:42AM:On the subject of Col Gaddafi’s assets, it emerged on Tuesday that Libya had declared gold reserves worth more than $6bn at current prices. The gold could potentially be used by Gaddafi while his flow from oil sales and other trade is cut off due to fighting and international sanctions

10:36AM: Two young Libyans whose rap music is broadcast to the front line by rebel Benghazi radio hope they are helping to maintain the morale of fighters outgunned by Moamer Gaddafi’s forces. Read their story here.

10:30AM: Newsweek’s Barbie Nadeau on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa tells the BBC World Service that most of the migrants there have come from Tunisia and Egypt, but there has been a rise those arriving from Libya in the last couple of days. She says there are about 6,000 migrants on the island, which only has capacity for 850.

10:27AM: The fighting on the approach to Ajdabiya is centred around Zuwaytina, about 25km away. The BBC’s Ian Pannell reports that the town has been almost sealed off and is still being shelled by Col Gaddafi’s forces. But he points out that it’s hard for international forces to single out pro-Gaddafi forces there or in the western city of Misrata without risking collateral damage.

10:14AM: Sweden is the latest country to freeze assets belonging to Gaddafi’s administration. The Scandanavian country has seized 10 billion kronor (US$1.6 billion), it says, but officials say “it’s not impossible” there could be more hidden.

10:08AM: Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has faced a struggle to convince Filipino workers to leave Libya – with most preferring to stay than to return to their home country. Del Rosario escorted 31 Filipinos from Tripoli to the border with Tunisia earlier today, said the Phillipine department for foreign affairs. But some 1,600 of 2,000 Filipino nurses have decided to stay in Libya – along with about 100 Filipino professors – where the workers have been promised higher wages amid the violence. They say they face unemployment at home. Del Rosario led 400 Filipinos from Tripoli last month, says the Associated Press news agency.

9:54AM: Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, Al-Azhar, condemned Western military “aggression” in Libya but said it supported what it called the legitimate demands of the Libyan people’s revolution. Al-Azhar warned the United States and Britain against “dividing Libya and destroying its natural and human wealth, as happened in Iraq,” the state Al Ahram newspaper said. But the Cairo-based body also condemned Arab governments who oppressed citizens for decades. It said their leaders should not stay in office if that would lead to more bloodshed.

9:19AM: BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the question of who takes command over the mission in Libya appears a little closer to being resolved with the intervention of US President Obama, but there’s still an unedifying and distracting struggle going on over how the mission is framed politically.

9:09AM: The price tag for US involvement could easily run into hundreds of millions of dollars, says the AP news agency. It says that the cruise missiles – of which at least 162 have already been launched – have a price tag of between US$1million and US$1.5million each. The B2 bombers, which have been flying 25-hour round trips to Libya from Missouri, reportedly cost US$10,000 an hour, says the agency.

8:20am: US Navy Adm Samuel Locklear, the on-scene commander of allied forces, has said intelligence confirms that Col Gaddafi’s forces are attacking civilians in Misrata. The coalition was “considering all options”, he said without elaborating. Misrata is one of the cities that US President Barack Obama has demanded that government forces leave.

8:11am: A doctor in Misrata has said rebels in Libya’s third-largest city are vastly outgunned by troops loyal to Col Gaddafi. “The fighters are using primitive tools like swords, sticks and anything they get from the Gaddafi mercenaries,” he told the Associated Press. Mokhtar Ali, a Libyan dissident in exile who is still in touch which his family in Misrata, said snipers were firing at anyone on the street, and residents trapped inside had no idea who had been killed. “People live in total darkness in terms of communications and electricity,” he added. “Residents live on canned food and rainwater tanks.”

Interesting Numerical Coincidences about Gaddafi:

Gadaffi came to power in ’69 and he is 69 yrs old now (69-69=0)
Gadaffi was born in ’42 and has been in power for 42 years (42-42=0)
In 1973 Gaddafi proclaimed his cultural revolution of 1973 in the city of Zwara (a city he bombarded heavily this past week) and the UN Resolution was assigned No. 1973 (1973-1973=0)
In 1911 the people of Libya fought the Italians for freedom and WON , in 2011- the people are now fighting Gaddafi for freedom and will WIN (inA)

Looks like your time is up Gaddafi

7:13am: The US will hand over operations to NATO in the next few days, the Associated Press says. The US has been leading the military efforts so far, but has been keen to hand over the role to avoid further accusations of carrying out imperialist adventures in an oil-rich state.

The diplomatic and military deal depends on agreement from all 28 NATO members – including Turkey, which has been insisting on a narrow military mandate – and guarantees that no foreign occupation of the country will follow. US President Obama said:

When this transition takes place it is not going to be our planes that are maintaining the no-fly zone. It is not going to be our ships that are necessarily enforcing the arms embargo. That’s precisely what the other nations are going to do.

5:21am: Saadoun, a resident of Misrata, tells the BBC that there has been a daily pattern to the attacks by government forces. “The day starts with heavy shelling, and artillery fire through the city centre, and the residential areas,” he says. “The tanks will then pave the way for snipers to climb on the top of tall buildings in the city centre, and provide a good cover for the artillery, and for the tanks to enter, or to try to enter into the city centre.”

6:55am: Anti-aircraft fire has again been reported in Tripoli, just before dawn, following another tense night in the Libyan capital.

6:35am: AFP reporter Dave Clark (left), photographer Roberto Schmidt (right) and Getty Images photographer Joe Raedle(centre) arrive at the Rixos hotel in Tripoli, after they were released by the Libyan authorities earlier today.Four Al Jazeera journalists and crew are still being held in Libya.

File 17531

[Photo: Reuters]

6:43am: More on the loud explosions heard by CNN’s Nic Robertson. Nic tweets: “Two attacks in Tripoli loud explosions twice in early hours, about 5.30am and 6.15am local, targets not immediately clear… Explosions sound like coming from western side of city, large military base in that direction. Sound of fighter jets heard also… Early morning raids draw limited anti-aircraft response.”

6:21am: A group of around 20 activists have held a protest in central Seoul, in opposition to the airstrikes in Libya. Protest leader Choi Chang-joon said:

The US intervention in Libya is an act of interference in the domestic affairs of Libya, starting with the US ambitions. They set up a no-fly zone to protect their air strikes. Civilians have been killed, so they should stop the bombing as quickly as possible.

Video: Anderson Cooper interviewed a man in Misrata this evening. The man discusses the bombing and attacks by tanks and snipers killing families, civilians and childrens while also destroying homes. Watch here:

5:59am : The Pentagon says that of Tuesday, the US military had flown 212 aerial missions over Libya, while 124 had been flown by other coalition forces. A total of 108 air strikes had been carried out and 162 Tomahawk missiles had been fired, it adds.

5:50am: Feb 17 voices tweets: “LPC from #Tripoli: six consecutive explosions just heard in eastern Tripoli near Tajoura. #Libya #Feb17″

Video: If you were wondering what it would look like to see missiles launched from a Tomahawk cruise- watch this video. Tomahawk Cruise Missiles launched Operation Odyssey (March 21).

5:21am: Fred Abrahams of Human Rights Watch says the coalition’s air and missile strikes are of limited use in places such as Misrata. “When there’s fighting in urban areas and combatants are mixing and mingling with civilians, the options are vastly reduced,” he explains. “I can imagine the pressures and desires to protect civilians in Misrata and Ajdabiya are bumping up against the concerns about causing harms to the civilians you seek to protect.”

5:18am: Forces loyal to Col Gaddafi are terrorising civilians in Libya’s third city, Misrata, residents have told the Associated Press. Residents said the shelling and sniper attacks were unrelenting. “The number of dead is too many for our hospital to handle,” a doctor said. As for food, he said: “We share what we find and if we don’t find anything, which happens, we don’t know what to do.”

4:55am: President Obama, during a visit to El Salvador on Tuesday, praised the US military’s involvement in Libya, calling it effective.

We have already saved lives in Benghazi, a city of 700,000 people. You had the prospect of Gaddafi’s forces carrying out his orders to show no mercy. That could have resulted in catastrophe.”

4:55am: President Barack Obama has said he’s confident the US will soon be able to hand over control of the Libyan military operation to an international coalition. Robert Hunter, a former US ambassador to Nato, tells the BBC it is a bit “unseemly to see the Nato allies squabbling with one another. It doesn’t have an impact on operations, but it does make the alliance look like it is in disarray.”

4:25am: Nic Robertson, a senior international correspondent at CNN, says locals from around Misrata have been periodically approaching roadsides on the outskirts of the city to see the damage caused by the conflict. He says people may be trying to take a peek at the fighting because state television is not showing images of conflict, but rather showing footage of Libyans waving their country’s flag.

4:18am: More on the three journalists that were released: Shortly before the three journalists’ release, a spokesman for Col Gaddafi told AFP the Libyan leader had received an appeal from the news agency and had asked the government to free the trio. They “were treated very well indeed”, spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said.

3:10AM: Live caller from Misrata describes the situation in the city, talks about captured mercenaries on March 22 via Feb17Voices.

2:47AM: Three journalists, including two AFP news agency staff, who had been held by Col Gaddafi’s forces since the weekend have been freed in Tripoli, an AFP journalist says.

2:25AM: President Barack Obama tells US broadcaster CNN that Libya’s leader may try to tough out the assault on his forces. “Gaddafi may try to hunker down and wait it out even in the face of the no-fly zone, even though his forces have been degraded,” he said.

2:05AM: Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught in Tripoli says Gaddafi’s televised address may not have been broadcast live as state TV runs a lot of recycled material, and no busloads of foreign journalists were brought to his palace to witness the event.

2:02AM: The UN is preparing to bring more aid into Libya. UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards says the agency will send truckloads of goods to Benghazi on Wednesday, including 5,000 blankets and 5,000 sleeping mats. ”Providing humanitarian assistance under current circumstances is very challenging,” he said.”There are reported shortages of medical supplies and basic commodities in the eastern part of the country, with prices having increased dramatically.” The UN World Food Programme plans to move 19 tons of lentils and 11 tons of vegetable oil in the next two days from Egypt into eastern Libya.

1:46AM: Here is a screen grab from Muammar Gaddafi’s appearance this evening on Libyan State TV at his in Bab El Azizi complex near Tripoli:

1:13AM: The Dutch government has said it will deploy six F-16 fighter jets, a refueling plane and a navy minesweeper to help enforce the arms embargo against Libya. The defense minister, Hans Hillen, said the F-16s would be available within a few days while the minesweeper, HMS Haarlem, already is in the Mediterranean.

1:05AM: Col Gaddafi’s words earlier today purportedly in front of his damaged Bab Al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli: “I do not fear storms that sweep the horizon, nor do I fear the planes that throw black destruction. I am resistant, my house is here in my tent […] I am the rightful owner, and the creator of tomorrow. I, I am here! I am here! I am here!”.

12:48AM: Barack Obama will cut short his trip to Latin America by two hours to fly home early to meet with his security team about the conflict in Libya, the White House says, according to AFP.

12:38AM: Hillary Clinton says people purporting to represent Col Gaddafi have been in contact with US officials. “A lot of it is just the way he behaves. It’s somewhat unpredictable. But some of it, we think, is exploring. You know, what are my options? where could I go? what could I do? And we would encourage that, their options,” she tells ABC news.

12:23AM: Hillary Clinton says that though she heard reports that one of Col Gaddafi’s sons had been killed, the “evidence is not sufficient” to confirm this. She told ABC that it was not US forces that would have killed him.

12:17AM:The US president says the Libyan people face potential threats from Col Gaddafi if he remains in power. Unless Col Gaddafi is willing to step down, “there are still going to be potential threats toward the Libyan people,” he says, Reuters report.

12:11AM: U.S. Secretary of State Clinton tells ABC that U.S. believes Gaddafi may be exploring exile options, but unclear if he is serious.

12:07AM: Germany is withdrawing ships and air crews in the Mediterranean Sea from various long-running Nato operations following the military alliance’s decision to enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya, according to the Associated Press news agency. Berlin isn’t participating in the operation to impose a no-fly zone in Libya and abstained on the U.N. resolution authorizing it.

U.S. Won’t Take Part in Post-Gadhafi Peacekeeping

WASHINGTON—U.S. military planners say they believe a post-Gadhafi Libya may require an international force to keep the peace, but the Obama administration has made clear to its allies that they shouldn’t expect American troops to participate.

With rebel fighters backed by North Atlantic Treaty Organization air power apparently on the verge of toppling Col. Moammar Gadhafi, talks are under way about winding down the NATO mission and putting international efforts under a United Nations umbrella, U.S. officials said.

“I don’t see much of a role for the U.S. military in postconflict Libya,” said a senior U.S. military official.

The U.S. and its allies want to avoid any appearance that NATO would be responsible for Libya should Col. Gadhafi’s regime fall. And they want any postconflict stabilization presence to be backed by the Transitional National Council, which represents opposition groups fighting to overthrow the colonel.

The Obama administration hopes the rebel council will be able to provide sufficient security in Tripoli and other areas, but military officials believe a peacekeeping presence may be unavoidable, depending on how the security situation evolves in the coming days and weeks.

Already engaged in two costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. believes the U.N. or another multinational coalition could take the lead in any post-Gadhafi stabilization efforts, said senior U.S. military officials and a senior Western diplomat working closely with the Americans.

From the start of the conflict in Libya, President Barack Obama has ruled out putting American troops on Libyan soil, and he pressured European allies to spearhead attacks from the air. Since leading the initial strikes against Col. Gadhafi’s loyalists, the U.S. has largely played a back-seat role, providing intelligence, unmanned aircraft and other logistical support for an air campaign dominated by the French, British and other NATO members.

After a weekend of fast-moving events in Libya, Obama administration officials stressed on Monday that the president still intends to keep the U.S. military role at a minimum. “We aren’t going to put boots on the ground,” an Obama administration official said.

A Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. will continue to fly surveillance and refueling missions in the days ahead.

A senior U.S. military officer said “a multinational coalition led by someone else” may well be “prudent.”

Washington’s reluctance to play an on-the-ground military role reflects domestic concerns about high war costs and a weak economy, as well as U.S. worries that the security situation could deteriorate, drawing an already-stretched American military into another protracted conflict.

Obama administration officials say post-Gadhafi planning is picking up pace and, other than saying they have no intention to participate in a peacekeeping force, they have made no final decisions about the way forward. “It is time to start thinking about next steps,” said another senior U.S. defense official.

Mr. Obama has recognized the rebel council as the legitimate governing authority in Libya, and officials want the group to lead any stabilization effort. “This is a Libya-led operation; they will be calling the shots,” a senior Obama administration official said of the rebel leaders. “We’re obviously in close contact with them at various levels on an ongoing basis, but this is their mission.”

The rebel council has so far resisted the idea of an international stabilization force, and officials say one might not be needed depending on how the conflict plays out.

Despite U.S. rejection of an overt military presence inside Libya, officials said the U.S. would support any stabilization effort by supplying equipment, as well as by rushing aid to the transitional Libyan authorities.

The U.S. military would like to establish a security-assistance presence in a new Libya. This could include military-liaison officers, as well as American trainers who would work with Libyan security forces, officials said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Libyan rebels still have to address outstanding legal issues before the Obama administration will release billions of dollars in frozen Gadhafi regime assets to the fledgling government, a Treasury official said Monday.

“All property and interests in property of the Gadhafi regime and others sanctioned by Treasury remain blocked, and all transactions involving the Gadhafi regime and persons who are included on the [Specially Designated Nationals] List continue to be prohibited,” the official said.

“We will continue to consult with the TNC and our international partners on the most effective and appropriate method of making additional significant financial assistance available to the TNC,” the official said.

The Treasury Department has frozen $37 billion in Libyan assets since February.

—Jeffrey Sparshott and Nathan Hodge contributed to this article.

Libyan Rebels Gain Control of Oil Refinery as Qaddafi Forces Flee

By By KAREEM FAHIM
ZAWIYAH, Libya — Rebel fighters gained complete control on Thursday of the oil refinery in Zawiyah — just a half hour’s drive from Tripoli, the country’s capital — routing government soldiers after days of battle and advancing into other parts of this strategic port city still controlled by loyalists of Libya’s increasingly isolated leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Employees at the large refinery complex here, which appeared to be undamaged by the fighting, said the remaining pockets of Qaddafi soldiers who had been defending the refinery were driven out overnight. A rebel commander said 5,000 rebel fighters were deployed around the refinery. Rebel sentries manning checkpoints could be seen on a drive around the complex on Thursday, and the discarded green uniforms of Libyan national army soldiers littered the grounds — signs of desertion by the Qaddafi defenders.

The fight for Zawiyah represents a possibly decisive moment in the six-month-old rebellion against Colonel Qaddafi, the quixotic leader whose four-decade-old rule in Libya has been challenged by the tide of antigovernment uprisings that have spread through the Arab world, upending the autocrats of Tunisia and Egypt and threatening regimes elsewhere, including Syria and Yemen.

A rebel was carried into a clinic near Zawiyah, where government forces are fighting for control.

Colonel Qaddafi has rejected calls to step down and defied defections by subordinates, increased economic and political isolation and NATO air assaults. The rebels themselves have suffered from internal dissension and lack of training. But there have been increasing signs that Colonel Qaddafi’s Tripoli stronghold is fracturing. People fleeing the capital said Wednesday that there was no electricity, and that prices of basic goods have soared amid shortages.

Rebel fighters interviewed at the Zawiyah complex said some Qaddafi loyalists had tried to escape in two boats docked at the refinery port, and that NATO fighter jets had bombed the boats. There was no immediate corroboration of their account from NATO.

Parts of the refinery grounds showed clear signs of battle, with destroyed vehicles and buildings hit by rocket and machine gun fire. Some squads of rebel fighters were seen building defensive berms in anticipation of a counterattack by the Qaddafi forces.

The rebel seizure of the refinery followed a mass departure of civilian refugees from Zawiyah, where sniper and artillery fire from the pro-Qaddafi forces made the escape especially hazardous.

About 2,000 families from Zawiyah, Tripoli and other cities near the fighting on the Libyan coast passed through one rebel checkpoint on Wednesday, according to rebel officials registering the names. Cars and trucks, piled high with refrigerators and other household items, filled a road to the Nafusah Mountains.

For the past week, Libya’s rebels have undertaken a broad offensive with local fighters to seize strategic towns in a bid to shift the course of the stalled war. Their gains have been hard to tally: reports of towns falling to the rebels are frequently amended hours later.

An American official said Wednesday that the United States had deployed two more Predator drones for surveillance operations over Libya, further increasing the pressure on Qaddafi’s forces, according to Reuters. The drones arrived earlier this week, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. It was not immediately clear how many American drones had been deployed for the NATO mission so far.

As rebel officials chased rumors of high-level defections from Colonel Qaddafi’s inner circle, his government confirmed on Tuesday that a senior security official had left. The Libyan government’s chief spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, said that the official, Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah, who flew to Cairo on a private plane on Monday, had suffered “social and emotional pressures” before his defection.

The fighting on Wednesday continued in cities that dot the western mountains, including Gheryan in the east and Tiji in the west. Heavy fighting was also reported in Sabratha, on the coast, and doctors who worked in Surman said that city was under rebel control.

By the early afternoon, doctors at a clinic in Bir Muammar, about six miles from the front lines, said three rebels had been killed in the day’s fighting.

Source: New York Times

Libya: the importance of Zawiya to the rebels

By Martin Chulov
The road to Tripoli runs straight through Zawiya.

Control of the town and its lifeline to the Tunisian border gives the rebels a formidable launching pad for an assault on the capital, 30 miles to the east. Access to the oil produced by the refinery on the outskirts of town is more a bonus than the main prize.

Even without the black gold the rebel leadership covets, it has clearly established other means of keeping its ramshackle military moving. For the past five months the key goal has been to control the road and the supply line that matters – the one that runs 100 miles west to the Tunisian border.

This flat desert highway has kept Gaddafi’s Libya viable since February. His envoys have used it to travel to meet would-be peacemakers and to ask allies for money and guns. His wife and daughter crossed the border in May to sit the war out in Belarus.

Libyan rebels tear down Gaddafi regime bunting at the Zawiya oil refinery. Photograph: Bob Strong/Reuters

With the border now effectively closed to Gaddafi and his loyalists, he has nowhere left to run. The rebels, meanwhile, will sharply ramp up orders for things that matter to their campaign — providing the Tunisians are on board.

They could also, presumably, take charge of the Libyan side of the border crossing, as their counterparts in the east did when they ousted Gaddafi’s army in February. All of this would allow rebel leaders to prepare for the main game – an eventual assault on Tripoli. Short of a last-minute climbdown from Gaddafi – something he has vowed never to do – such a move seems inevitable.

After many months of stumbles and miscalculation and billions of dollars of European and US ordnance being dropped from the sky, the capital is now within range. The rebel armies are configured in a classic pincer movement; in the west in Zawiya, and in central Libya outside Misrata, where they appear to have finally won the upper hand against a resilient foe.

The rebels in the east, where it all began, may also take heart from the breakthrough in Zawiya and push west from Libya’s second oil town of Brega, where Gaddafi’s troops have had them pinned down all summer.

Zawiya will have done wonders for morale. The fact that the breakthrough took place during Ramadan will probably give it extra impetus. For an exhausted, beleaguered and out-manoeuvred Gaddafi, it will have had the opposite effect.

Source: The Guardian

AJE: Libya opposition arrests senior leader General Abdel Fatah Younis

General Abdel Fatah Younis, the chief of staff of the rebel forces in Libya, has been arrested by the National Transition Council.

He is being held at an undisclosed military garrison in Benghazi. The reason behind the former minister of interior’s arrest on Thursday has not been made public.

Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley reporting from Benghazi quoted unconfirmed reports as saying he was arrested for dealing with and smuggling arms to Gaddafi loyalists.

“He spent 40 years as one of Gaddafi’s right hand men as minister of defence and in charge of the special forces. So when he came over five months ago to the opposition cause it was quite a coup. But some people have had their doubts about… his loyalties…

Some of his men have come back from the front line demanding his release. This is an ugly situation in the making,” our correspondent said.

Meanwhile, Libyan opposition fighters in the western mountains have launched attacks on several government-controlled towns, hoping to push out loyalist troops and open a route to the border.

The attacks began around dawn as rebels descended from around the towns of Nalut and Jadu in an attempt to expel forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi from the Nafusa mountain foothills.

By midday local time, rebels had taken and lost the town of al-Jawsh and reached the outskirts of Ghazaya, a significant base for Gaddafi’s troops near the Tunisian border.

Four rebels were killed and 10 injured, while 18 loyalist troops were captured, according to opposition sources.

l Jazeera’s James Bays, who approached al-Jawsh with the rebel advance, said fighters initially took the town and moved on but were caught by a surprise counterattack.

Despite hitting al-Jawsh with artillery fire and attempting to clear out Gaddafi’s troops, some regime forces apparently remained in town, while others fired Grad rockets after the rebels entered.

Farther west, Ghazaya had been bombard by rebel tanks and “long-range guns” throughout Wednesday night in preparation for the attack, an opposition source said.

The fight for Ghazaya continued into Thursday afternoon, and rebels claimed to have seized the nearby town of Takut. A rebel spokesman in Jadu claimed rebels had taken Ghazaya, but that claim was not confirmed by other sources.

Hundreds of trucks carrying hundreds of fighters were involved in the operation at al-Jawsh, Bays said.

It appeared to be the largest attack by opposition fighters in the Nafusa Mountains since the conflict began.

Diplomatic recognition

On Wednesday, the political vice continued to squeeze Gaddafi’s government, with the UK officially announcing its recognition for the Libyan opposition as the sole legitimate authority in the country.

Khaled Kaim, Gaddafi’s deputy foreign minister, condemned the decision as “irresponsible, illegal and in violation of British and international laws” in a press conference in Tripoli.

He said the government “will take necessary actions” and pursue a legal challenge to the move in both British and international courts.

William Hague, the UK foreign minister, announced the recognition of the National Transitional Council (NTC) on Wednesday, 12 days after the US made a similar move.

Britain also asked all diplomats belonging to Gaddafi’s government to leave the country.

Recognition in the UK means the NTC can send its own diplomatic personnel, who will be treated like the representatives of any other government, and can receive millions of dollars in frozen oil funds.

Mahmud al-Naku, a Libyan exile in Britain, has been tapped as the NTC’s ambassador, an opposition official announced on Wednesday.

Britain will transfer about $147m in frozen assets to the NTC and has already said it will extend a $143m loan based on frozen Libyan funds.

“In line with this decision, we summoned the Libyan charge d’affaires here to the foreign office this morning and informed him that he and other regime diplomats from the Gaddafi regime must now leave the United Kingdom,” Hague said on Wednesday.

“We no longer recognise them as the representatives of the Libyan government and we are inviting the Libyan National Transitional Council to appoint a new Libyan diplomatic envoy to take over the Libyan embassy in London.”

Expulsion order

The current charge d’affaires and all eight remaining staff and their dependents have three days to leave the country, the UK foreign office said.

In an audio message to loyalists on Wednesday, Gaddafi said that he and his people were “ready to sacrifice” in order to defeat NATO and the Libyan fighters.

Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from the opposition stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya, said that the release of frozen funds would be welcomed by NTC leaders, as they had been running dangerously low on cash.

She said that if the funds were handed over to the oil company that Hague named in his statement, they could go towards repairing an oil pipeline to one of the east’s largest oil fields, in Soriya.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the head of the NTC, said in Benghazi on Wednesday that the UK’s decision “gives us a political and economic boost”.

“This means Gaddafi and his followers are no longer legitimate,” he said.

Britain’s diplomatic moves implement a decision made at the July 15 meeting in Istanbul.

The US, Britain and 30 other nations recognised the NTC as the country’s legitimate government, and individual countries have followed that collective acknowledgement with individual announcements.

But not all countries involved in the Libyan conflict have fallen in line.

Russia has criticised such moves as a “policy of isolation” that takes sides in a civil war and goes beyond the UN mandate of protecting civilians.

Russia has said Gaddafi must go and has recognised the NTC as a party to negotiations to end the conflict, but it has not disavowed Gaddafi’s government or said the NTC is the sole representative of the Libyan people.

Source: Al Jazeera