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Tuesday, 19 July, 2011, 5:45 ( 3:45 GMT )
Battle in Brega City Switches to 'Street-Street' Fighting
17/07/2011 18:02:00
It appears that despite reports that the Libyan rebels had retaken tharea city is far from over, and on Sunday the battle for possession switched from the desert to intense street fighting in the town's northeast area, according to a report by AFP

Perhaps victory is near, but it is no all over yet. Rebel forces re-entered Brega - putting them within sight of a major strategic success - but said they had not yet managed to wrest control of the town from the pro-government troops, who have held it since April.

Mohammed Zawi, a spokesman for the rebel forces said that some small groups have made it inside, but they do not control the whole (town) yet. He also dismissed rumours that Al Qathafi troops had abandoned the town altogether. "It is now close fighting," he said, indicating a new phase in the four-day rebel campaign.

Until now heavy artillery had set the tenor of the battle, but mortars and rockets appear to have given way to heavy machine guns - a more useful weapon for fighting at closer quarters. However, that did little to stem the bloodshed, it has been reported.

With some 13 rebel fighters now reported killed and almost 200 wounded since the battle for Brega began on Thursday, in a statement, NATO said its forces were monitoring "the dynamic situation across the country, including around Brega."

Brega, made up of three areas, a residential area in the east, a major oil facility in the west and an old town in between, is nestled on the Gulf of Sirte,

On Friday a small rebel force had entered Brega from the northeast, before pulling back for NATO air strikes and for fellow fighters to the south to beat back the pro-government troops.

A series of military gains were washed away by hasty and badly coordinated advances, but now rebel commanders say they are anxious to make sure they have a unified offensive line before their final push.

With Libyan leader Muammar Al Qathafi refusing to relinquish power and go into exile, early on Sunday morning a series of blasts rocked Tripoli, with NATO saying in a statement that its warplanes had hit "a large military vehicle storage area in Tajoura, 30 kilometres east of Tripoli that consisted of several substantial warehouses, containing various military vehicles including battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers and ammunition."

From the Libyan government side, Libyan state television reported that "the colonialist crusader aggressor" had raided civilian and military sites in the Ain Zara district and in Tajoura.

Elsewhere, AFP further reported that southwest of the capital, Tripoli, on Sunday rebel fighters exchanged rocket and machine-gun fire with the Al Qathafi forces, both in the Nafusa Mountains and in the plains around Bir Ayad, which is regarded as a key junction on the road to Tripoli.

The rebels' senior commander for the region, Mokhtar Farnana, told the French news agency that they were consolidating their grip on the territory already held for fear of a loyalist counter-attack.

"The most important thing is to keep hold of the territory we have captured and to make it safe before making further attacks," Farnana said.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday thanked the Greek government for its contribution to NATO-led operations in Libya.
 
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