Elias Hj Idris
By: Daily Mail Reporter
War plane being shot down...

Libyan warplanes bombarded a rebel stronghold with seven air-strikes as desperate Colonel Gaddafi tried to prevent them closing in on his Tripoli safe haven.

The assaults came as rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil gave Gaddafi 72 hours to step down and leave Libya.
The head of the rebel National Libyan Council said: 'If he leaves Libya immediately, during 72 hours, and stops the bombardment, we as Libyans will step back from pursuing him for crimes.'

He said the deadline would not be extended beyond 72 hours.

Indiscriminate: Rebel fighters run for cover during as
Gaddafi's warplanes bomb the oil-rich town of Ras Lanuf

Attack: Rebel fighters take cover as their position is bombed by the Libyan airforce

Clash: Defiant Libyan rebels fire in retaliation at pro-Gaddafi fighters during the air strikes

Anti-Gaddafi insurgents took up any position they could as they returned fire with little more than hand guns and assault rifles, taking pot shots at the roaring jets overhead.

... on the wheel chair

Some lay on the floor while others sat in office swivel chairs in a bid to get a better line of sight as they furiously defended the oil port of Ras Lanouf.

Some... on the floor

But their brave attempts to stave off the attacks were no match for Gaddafi's brute force as one strike landed on a residential area. Fortunately, however, most homes in the area had already been evacuated.

Gaddafi's troops also recaptured Zawiya, the city closest to Tripoli after it fell into opposition hands, according to some reports.

It was unclear how many had been injured or killed in the bombardments as chaos reigned and fighting continued.

Frontline: It was unclear how many had been injured or killed in the bombardments as chaos reigned and fighting continued
Close shave: Rebels are engulfed in dust and smoke
as another bomb explodes on their positions

The attacks came as the dictator was said to have proposed a meeting of the Libyan parliament to agree a transition period to pave the way for him to step down, according to Al Jazeera, the Arab TV network. His terms include immunity from criminal prosecution and a pile of cash.

It also emerged today that The Libyan government is calling on the United Nations to dispatch a fact-finding team to investigate the violence during the country's bloody uprising.

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A senior official, who returned from Tripoli late on Monday, said top leaders at the Libyan foreign ministry offered the mission free travel throughout the nation and would provide security for its members.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with standing rules, said the eight remaining ambassadors in Tripoli from EU nations also called for an independent visit to verify broadly reported allegations of human rights abuses.

Action stations: Rebels speed away with their pick-truck toward the site of an airstrike

Defiance: Rebels took up any position they could to defend the town, some even in office swivel chairs

Never surrender: Others lay on the ground and fired into the air as Gaddafi's jets roared overhead

But today Gaddafi showed no signs of hanging up his military stripes as some witnesses said his tanks were roaming the city of Zawiya and firing randomly at homes.

Gaddafi's regime has been using its air power advantage more each day to check a rebel advance west toward Tripoli on the main road leading out of the opposition-controlled eastern half of the country.

Libyan rebel fighters run for cover as shells explode
nearby in the under-siege town of Bin Jawad

The heavy use of planes underlines the vulnerability of the rebel forces as they attempt to march in open terrain along the Mediterranean coast and could prompt world powers to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to deny Gaddafi that edge.

The United States and its Nato allies edged closer yesterday to formulating a military response to the escalating violence in Libya as the alliance boosted surveillance flights over the country and the Obama administration signalled it might be willing to help arm Gaddafi's opponents.
Europe, meanwhile, kick-started international efforts to impose a no-fly zone.

Calm before storm: Rebel fighters hold their old national flag as they walk at sunset yesterday

In Benghazi, the main city in the rebel-held east of the country, a spokesman for the newly created Interim Governing Council said a man who claimed to represent Gaddafi has made contact to discuss terms for Gaddafi to step down.

The council could not be certain whether the man was acting on his own initiative or did in fact represent the Libyan leader.

'But our position is clear: No negotiations with the Gaddafi regime,' said the spokesman.

In Zawiya, the witness said electricity, phone and internet services have all been cut.

'The city is in ruins,' he said. 'Some buildings have been entirely destroyed and everyone on the street is shot on sight. There are many wounded but the hospitals are running out of supplies,' he said, describing conditions in the city after the regime's counter-offensive yesterday.

As the fighting continues, Gaddafi's regime is also coming under mounting pressure from some Arab nations.

Gulf Arab countries joined the calls for a no-fly zone, with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates saying during a conference of his country's neighbours that the UN Security Council should 'shoulder its historical responsibility for protecting the Libyan people.'

However Western military intervention does not seem imminent - and the warnings may be an attempt to intimidate Gaddafi with words before deeds.

British and French officials said the no-fly resolution was being drawn up as a contingency and it has not been decided whether to put it before the UN Security Council, where Russia holds veto power and has rejected such a move.

Western officials have said a no-fly zone does not require a UN mandate, but they would prefer to have one.

However British Foreign Secretary William Hague today said one was a practical possibility but would need broad international and legal support.

He spoke following the eruption of a bizarre blame game between Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the military over the bungled SAS operation in Libya.

The embattled Foreign Secretary was accused of ‘serial bungling’ after the Special Forces and an MI6 spy were captured and detained by a bunch of Libyan farmhands.

'Serious misunderstanding': William Hague told the Commons that rebels did not understand what role the SAS men were to have on the ground

Mr Hague, who signed the final order, accepted ‘full responsibility’ for the debacle but he refused to accept the blame.

He passed the buck to Armed Forces chiefs, saying they decided to send the heavily-armed team into rebel held territory by helicopter in the dead of night.

He told MPs he had signed off the plans ‘based on professional and military advice’.
And Mr Hague then made clear that David Cameron had given the green light after Downing Street sought to cast him as the fall guy.

Speaking today at a joint news conference with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the Foreign Office in London, Mr Hague said a no-fly zone over Libya needed 'clear legal basis, demonstrable need, strong international support, and broad support in the region and a readiness to participate in it'.

He added: 'What we call for is for Gaddafi to go, for people in Libya to be able to have the representative and broadly based government they want.

'But, of course, if that scenario changes, if it goes in other directions, well, then we have to look at other options as well, but I think we are not in that position yet.'

The fiasco follows Mr Hague’s mistaken claim that Gaddafi had fled Libya for Venezuela, the Government’s late start to the evacuation of British nationals and uncertainty over its position on a no-fly zone.

In Libya, rebels said the affair had left Britain less trusted than France. They said the UK seemed more interested in Libya’s vast oil wealth than helping them beat Colonel Gaddafi and win democracy.

In response to questions from Liberal Democrat Sir Menzies Campbell over his enthusiasm for the job, Mr Hague said: 'These are historic times and momentous events are taking place.

'All of us who have taken on the job of shouldering responsibilities at this time must see those responsibilities through an extended period of time in the face of any criticism or setbacks.... that's how I feel about it.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1364166/Libya-Gaddafi-bombards-rebels-Ras-Lanouf-5-air-strikes.html#ixzz1G4shYGA8
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