Libya rebels say bracing for a new Tripoli push

Sat Jul 2, 2011 5:13pm GMT
 

BENGHAZI, Libya, July 2 (Reuters) - Libyan rebels said on Saturday they were gearing up for a new advance on Tripoli from the southwest in the next two days after their forces were pushed back by government troops earlier this week.

"(It) was obviously a strategic withdrawal because of the battlefield situation and the amount of bombardment that the revolutionary forces were receiving," said Ahmed Bani, a rebel military spokesman.

"But we hope to counter that within the next 48 hours."

The rebels had earlier advanced to within 80 km (50 miles) of Muammar Gaddafi's stronghold in Tripoli but retreated on Friday after coming under rocket fire from his forces.

Their push to the outskirts of the town of Bir al-Ghanam had raised the possibility of a breakthrough in a four-month old conflict in the North African nation.

Speaking in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Bani said insurgents fighting in western Libya had enough supplies and manpower to counter Gaddafi forces and required no reinforcements from the east.

"Our people in the western parts have enough men, they have no shortage of ammunition and definitely no lack of bravery," he said. "So there isn't any particular reinforcement being sent to the west."

In the east, Libya's frontline near the town of Brega has been deadlocked for weeks, with rebels and Gaddafi forces dug in at more or less the same positions without any conclusive fighting. Bani said he believed that too may soon change.

"We all know that the strategic point in the eastern front is the capture of Brega," he said. "We hope the countdown to that will start very soon, the minute that our forces start advancing from Ajdabiyah to Brega." (Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Diana Abdallah)

 
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