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Allied Planes Hit Gaddafi's Forces As Rebels Plead For More Strikes

Benjamin Gottlieb |
March 20, 2011 | 8:07 p.m. PDT

Senior News Editor

(Courtesy of Creative Commons).
(Courtesy of Creative Commons).

U.S., British and French aircraft hammered Libyan anti-aircraft sites and ground troops loyal dictator Moammar Gaddafi late Sunday, as the U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone took its full form.

As the precision strikes rained down, Libyan rebels applauded the allied air strikes, but also reiterated that they would not welcome any foreign ground troops in Libya. Libya's history of Italian occupation and outward criticism of the U.S.-led Iraq War in 2003 have fed an entrenched fear of foreign armies.

"We don't want what happened in Iraq with international intervention," said Salwa el-Deghali of the national transitional council. "Foreign troops on the ground, no. Just the air strikes."

Immediately following the airstrikes, pro-Gaddafi forces gathered in the streets of Tripoli, chanting and firing guns in the air in a show of support for their president.

Rebel forces said the allied forces are giving them a fighting chance against Gaddafi's cache of armored military vehicles and aircraft.

"There must be more attacks, to destroy his forces and heavy weapons," said Kamal Mustafa Mahmoud, a rebel soldier on the edge of Benghazi. "Then they can leave Gaddafi to us. We know how to fight him but we are afraid of his heavy weapons. I want them to destroy the ground forces of Gaddafi."

From the Guardian:

Young rebels, known as shabab, danced on the armored carcasses. They fired guns and chanted: "Here come the shabab. Gaddafi is finished".

Western powers leading the air assault said again that the attacks are about protecting civilians from Gaddafi, not regime change. But many of the revolutionaries see the coalition forces as fighting on their behalf.

The air bombardment is regarded among rebel military commanders as creating a more level battle field by removing Gaddafi's advantage of heavy armor.

Libyan government spokesman Mousa Ibrahim said that 48 people were killed by the air strikes and 150 others were wounded near targets in Tripoli, Tajoura, the Kadafi stronghold of Surt, rebel-held Misurata and the eastern town of Zuwara, according to the Los Angeles Times.



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