Gaddafi retakes rebel city

The closest rebel-held city to the Libyan capital has fallen to Muammar Gaddafi's forces.





And on another fighting front near the opposition-held east of the country, government forces trying to stop rebels advancing towards Tripoli pounded them with airstrikes and rockets.



The latest round of battles on opposite ends of Libya's Mediterranean coast once again revealed the weakness and disorganisation of both sides in the conflict.



Gaddafi's regime has been using its air power advantage more each day to check a rebel advance west toward Tripoli on the main road leading out of the opposition-controlled east.



The increasing use of planes underlines the vulnerability of the rebel forces as they attempt to march in open terrain and could prompt world powers to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to deny Gaddafi that edge.



In Zawiyah, 30 miles west of Tripoli, government forces and rebels who had been in control of the city fought for weeks with the power tipping back and forth between the two sides.



After the government brought overwhelming firepower in a counter-offensive that lasted all weekend, the city fell to Gaddafi's forces last night.



The government heavily shelled the city with tank artillery and mortars, according to one witness who said Gaddafi's tanks were roaming the city and firing randomly at homes.



He said electricity, phone and internet services were all cut. He managed to escape the city through surrounding farmlands and reach a point where mobile phone coverage was available. The recapture of Zawiya was confirmed by regime officials in Tripoli.



"The city is in ruins," he said. "Some buildings have been entirely destroyed and everyone on the street is shot on sight. There are many wounded but the hospitals are running out of supplies," he said. The offensive on Zawiya is thought to be spearheaded by an elite unit led and named after one of Gaddafi's sons, Khamis.



On a separate front in the east, Libyan planes launched at least five new airstrikes today near rebel positions in the oil port of Ras Lanouf.



Over the past few days, rebels moved out of their stronghold in the east, capturing with relative speed the oil ports of Brega and Ras Lanouf. But they were met with superior firepower and airstrikes when they tried to push westward and beat a fast retreat to Ras Lanouf over the past two days.



Government forces also pounded the rebels with rockets.



The rebels marching west seem to have reached a point of their campaign where they need to work out how to organise resupply lines and avoid becoming easy targets for planes. The extent of their westward reach is a checkpoint about six miles west of Ras Lanouf.



Today's airstrikes appeared designed to intimidate the rebels rather than kill them, but the anti-regime forces were not taking any chances and were spreading out deep inside the desert around the area in small groups.



In Benghazi, a spokesman for the newly created Interim Governing Council said a man who claimed to represent Gaddafi made contact with the council to discuss terms for Gaddafi to step down.



Mustafa Gheriani said the council could not be certain whether the man was acting on his own initiative or did in fact represent the Libyan leader.



"But our position is clear: No negotiations with the Gaddafi regime," he said.



However Western military intervention does not seem imminent - and the warnings may be an attempt to intimidate Gaddafi with words before deeds.



British and French officials said a no-fly zone resolution was being drawn up as a contingency and it has not been decided whether to put it before the UN Security Council, where Russia holds veto power and has rejected such a move.



Western officials have said a no-fly zone does not require a UN mandate, but they would prefer to have one.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Travel
travelFrom Notting Hill Carnival to Zombeavers at FrightFest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Engineer-(Support, ITIL, Software Vendor)

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Engineer-(Support, S...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home