Thursday, March 24, 2011

Airstrikes Fail to Loosen Libyan Siege - Video

I thought it wasn't going to be easy!!

But I am not so sure this hard way will work!!

Gadhafi is oblivious to reality ~ outside of holding onto power.

He is playing his hand ~ understands the restraints of the ally forces ~ he is determined to ignore them and press on with his war. Possibly dragging the war effort on ~ till much longer than expected.

Military assessments suggested strikes on Col. Moammar Gadhafi's ground forces have failed to loosen their siege of the key western city of Misrata, as coalition forces pounded targets of the Libyan regime on the Mediterranean coast and deep inland.

The city of Misrata, 125 miles east of Tripoli and Libya's third largest, faces a humanitarian emergency, according to military assessments.

Timeline: Moammar Gadhafi's Libya - Some key dates in Col. Gadhafi's nearly 42-year reign

Residents say Col. Gadhafi's forces have encircled the city center and supply of water, electricity, food and medical supplies have been cut off. Gadhafi loyalists have taken control of the hospital and his snipers have been firing from rooftops, residents said.

"Misrata seems to be blockaded by the regime forces," a military official said, adding that the situation there was "deteriorating."

Military commanders have said the focus of U.S. and coalition air patrols had shifted from only enforcing a no-fly zone to hitting the regime's ground forces where they are poised to attack civilians.

Strike aircraft, the military official said, "continue to look for opportunities to target regime ground-based mechanized forces and command-and-control facilities."

Ben Rhodes, a U.S. deputy national-security adviser, said Wednesday the shift in strategy was intended "to prevent an imminent humanitarian catastrophe, a potential massacre of thousands if not tens of thousands of people in major population centers like Benghazi, Misrata, and other places where Gadhafi's forces were advancing."

The continued siege of Misrata, which is an important commercial hub, underscored the potential limits of aerial intervention. Misrata rose up against the regime when the first wave of protests swept the country last month, and has been a key rebel holdout in western Libya.

Allied commanders were hoping their latest airstrikes would produce an outcome in Misrata and other key cities similar to that in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital in eastern Libya, where Col. Gadhafi's troops were chased off and rebels won time to regroup.

The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon to review events in Libya, one week after it authorized the military action. Critics of the operation, such as Russia, China, Germany, were expected to voice their objections behind closed doors. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, back from a trip to the region, was expected to address the council.

French Foreign Minster Alain Juppé urged allies to be patient as military operations in Libya could take time to play out.

"I cannot tell you exactly how long," he said on French radio station RTL. "But they will continue the necessary time" to neutralize Col. Gadhafi's forces.

Russia's former ambassador to Libya said Col. Gadhafi is surrounded by aides willing to fight with him to the end but can't hold off Western-led forces for more than a few months because of dwindling supplies of food and fuel.

Vladimir Chamov, whose dismissal last week reflected a split over Moscow's response to the conflict, said Russia had hurt its economic interests in Libya by backing international sanctions and allowing military intervention there, in an article in the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets on Thursday.

The former envoy's assessment of Col. Gadhafi's position was significant because of his frequent meetings with the Libyan leader in recent weeks. He spoke to Russian news media Wednesday upon his return to Moscow.

"Gadhafi can run long enough to escape the Americans," Mr. Chamov said in remarks aired by Ekho Moskvy radio Thursday. "He has said many times, 'I will fight to the end.' I think he's absolutely truthful, and his entourage is in the same mood."

But the former envoy said Libya has food for no more than four months and, because of an air and sea blockade, "there are practically no new supplies. They also cannot get oil products."

In Brussels, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization met again Thursday as members wrangled over who would take command of the operation.

France, which was the first to send warplanes into action above Libya, wants NATO to take a secondary, mainly technical role, in a command structure of a coalition that would include Arab countries, which aren't NATO members.

Other allies argued that command of the strikes should rest with NATO, which has the most experience in the role.

Turkey's parliament approved sending ships to join a NATO operation to enforce a U.N.-sanctioned arms embargo, though the Islamic-leaning government has criticized the Western-led air raids.

At the same time Turkey has clashed openly with France over the way it has enforced the no-fly zone and has pressured Paris to transfer control of the operation to NATO.

On Thursday, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu again lambasted France for describing the no-fly zone operation in Libya as a "crusade," referring to a comment by the French interior minister earlier this week.

Meanwhile, coalition aircraft continued flying patrols to enforce the no-fly zone. Late on Wednesday night the French air force attacked and hit a Libyan air base about 155 miles south of the coast, a French defense ministry spokesman said, without giving more detail of the base's location.

On Thursday around 20 French fighter aircraft flew reconnaissance missions, during which one Libyan aircraft was located. A squadron of Rafale jets was called in and destroyed the Libyan jet with air-to-ground missiles as it was landing.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said the military compound at al Jufra, an air base deep in Libya's interior, was struck before dawn, the Associated Press reported.

In Tripoli, intermittent explosions could be heard starting on Wednesday night local time and lasting until dawn on Thursday. The sound of antiaircraft fire was quieter than on other nights, suggesting that coalition forces may have degraded those forces.

Mr. Kaim said a microwave tower in the capital's eastern suburb of Tajura and fuel tanks south of the capital were struck, but offered few details, such as whether there were casualties.

Tripoli residents said a base for radar systems and the military-engineering academy, both close to residential areas, were among key installations targeted in Tajura.

The defense official said coalition overflights in the 24 hours to Thursday morning remained relatively "flat" compared with the previous day's flight cycle, with U.S. and coalition aircraft flying around 115 sorties. U.S. aircraft accounted for 80 of those sorties, the official said.

Military officials didn't immediately provide a breakdown of how many of those sorties resulted in airstrikes.

Libyan state media broadcast footage from what it said was a base for a unit of the Libyan army's seventh division in Tajura.

A pile of wrecked military vehicles and trucks was shown going up in flames, sending plumes of heavy smoke into the night sky. A military officer at the scene said tanks and missile carriers were among the equipment destroyed, and that six rockets had hit the facility from the sea.

Later the channel broadcast scenes from a hospital showing doctors treating a wounded soldier in an emergency room.


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