Wednesday, June 8, 2011

After 60 Strikes on Libya, NATO Debates Increasing Attacks

Updated at 11 a.m. edt

Thousands of troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi are reportedly concentrating outside of Misurata today from all land-based directions, shelling ahead of a likely attempt to retake the rebel-held port city.

At least a dozen people have died in the attacks, but the rebels are holding the city, for now, according to a rebel spokesman.

"Gadhafi forces are shelling Misurata from three sides: east, west and south," rebel spokesman Hassan al-Misrati told Reuters from inside the city.

"He has sent thousands of troops from all sides and they are trying to enter the city. They are still outside, though," he told the wire service.

The latest attack by Gadhafi forces comes as rebels have been asked to hold their ground and not advance west by NATO to avoid friendly fire or civilian casualties.

The attack could be meant to cut into at least two known rebel brigades in Misurata, but also may be an attempt to divert NATO warplanes from Tripoli, where the alliance dropped at least 60 bombs over a 24-hour period.

NATO has reportedly suspended its attacks on Tripoli, but if the pattern holds alliance warplanes are likely to be back in action by nightfall.

In Brussels, NATO re-affirmed its decision to extend the air campaign by another three months.

end update

NATO is debating today upping the strikes on Moammar Gadhafi after dropping about 60 bombs on Libya over the most intense 24 hours of attacks from the sky since the alliance took over the air campaign from the United States.

NATO defense ministers are in Brussels where they are grading the campaign and urging more countries to step up as Libyan rebels are itching to advance on Gadhafi's depleted forces.

"We want to see increased urgency in some quarters in terms of Libya," British Defense Secretary Liam Fox told reporters ahead of the meetings.

In a related development, Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov has left Benghazi after failing to broker a cease-fire agreement after with rebel Transitional National Council Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the Russian news agency reported.

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