Libyan Rebels Plan Final Battle for Gadhafi Hometown

NATO plans to continue to support rebels militarily, but a spokesman failed to explain how airstrikes were protecting civilians at this point

Libyan rebels are planning to launch an attack within days on Muammar Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, the ousted Libyan leader’s last major bastion of support.

Rebels began to converge on Sirte en masse this week, where negotiations with pro-Gadhafi tribal leaders for a transition of power have not borne fruit for the Transitional National Council (TNC).

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the rebels’ TNC, said that negotiations with forces in Sirte would end Saturday after the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Fitr, when the rebels would “act decisively and militarily.”

Essentially offering an ultimatum, Jalil said “We can’t wait more than that. We seek and support any efforts to enter these places peacefully. At the end, it might be decided militarily. I hope it will not be the case.”

NATO is planning to continue to support the rebels militarily if Sirte descends into battle. Col Roland Lavoie, a NATO spokesman,¬†appeared to struggle to explain how NATO strikes were protecting civilians at this point. Asked about NATO’s assertion that it hit 22 armed vehicles near Sirte on Monday, he was unable to say how the vehicles were threatening civilians, or whether they were in motion or parked.

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