Libyan rebels advance towards Tripoli

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The Independent Online

Rebel fighters seized a village south of the Libyan capital Tripoli and another group advanced towards the city from the east yesterday in the biggest push in weeks towards Muammar Gaddafi's main stronghold.

Rebels poured into the village of Al-Qawalish, 60 miles south-west of Tripoli, after a six-hour battle with pro-Gaddafi forces.

Farther north, rebel commanders said they had pushed westwards from the city of Misrata, taking them to within about 80 miles of Tripoli. But they were taking casualties from government artillery. The advances came as reports proliferated that Colonel Gaddafi was seeking a deal in which he would step down.

His government has denied any such negotiations are under way, but a senior Libyan official said there were signs that a solution to the conflict could be found by the start of August.

The rebel advances followed weeks of largely static fighting. Heavily armed Gaddafi forces still lie between the rebels and Tripoli, and previous rebel advances have either become bogged down or quickly turned into retreats. But with Al-Qawalish now in rebel hands, they can advance north-eastwards to the larger town of Garyan, which controls the main highway leading into the capital.