Libyan rebels continued to battle Gadhafi forces for control of cities and towns on either side of the encircled capital Tripoli on Saturday, at one point allowing the fighting to spill across the border into Tunisia where Libyan infiltrators clashed with Tunisian troops.
Recent territorial gains by the rebels have transformed the war by cutting the capital off from its main road link to the outside world. Rebel military officials, for example, said they have captured all of the strategic eastern port city of Brega, which contains Libya’s second-largest hydrocarbon complex and is where the country’s main oil fields feed into for refining.The siege around Tripoli has trapped civilian residents, cutting them off from food and other emergency supplies.
Tunisian forces just over the border had intercepted Libyan men in vehicles with weapons and fought them through the night in the desert. Several casualties were reported, although it is unclear whether the fighters were Libyan rebels or pro-Gaddafi soldiers cut off from Tripoli.
NATO warplanes continue to bomb targets perceived as valuable to Gadhafi and his rule, although claims of civilian victims continue to be reported, including 27 during a raid on Tripoli this week. On Saturday, Libyan state news agencies reported that Libyan Prime Minister Al Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi spoke to U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon by telephone requesting an investigation into alleged abuses by NATO.
U.S. officials continue, as they did this week, to paint Gadhafi’s time as coming to an end, but stated expectations of an end to the war being just around the corner are not unprecedented in NATO’s intervention in Libya, nor in various other recent U.S. quagmires.