EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Air strikes in Tripoli, Libya. US fighter jet crashes.


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Libya: Rebels flee Ras Lanuf, signaling a shift in momentum


Loyalists of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi forced rebel fighters to flee the strategic oil town of Ras Lanuf Thursday after being assaulted by land, sea and air.

The city mosque was hit by an air strike, and the hospital was evacuated in the afternoon after several attacks nearby.

Commercial and military ships hit the town with artillery and rockets, adding a third dimension to the usual mix of ground and air attacks that have become a part of the daily menu of fighting along the east-west highway between Bin Jawwad and Ras Lanuf.

At least one air strike was aimed at a rebel checkpoint on the edge of Brega, about a hundred miles east of Ras Lanuf, suggesting that the pro-Qaddafi forces may be ranging further east.

At the Red Crescent Hospital outside of Brega, which was receiving the dead and wounded from today’s battle following the closure of the Ras Lanuf hospital, four were reported dead and approximately 20 wounded.

The battle for control over Libya has pitted a well-armed, organized and often ruthless military against a group of protesters.

“I’m not a soldier, I’m a student,” said a protester in Ras Lanuf, brandishing his gun, his eyes intense and his voice quivering.

He had just retreated from the east-west highway after a heavy assault by government troops. “I’ve never held a gun before and Qaddafi is killing us from the sea, from the air.”

When the protesters captured Ras Lanuf a week ago, it was seen as a major victory for the opposition. Now, it appears the tide may be turning.

Qaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam vowed Thursday to retake the eastern half of the country, which has been held by rebel forces for the past few weeks

He told a crowd of supporters in Tripoli: “I have two words to our brothers and sisters in the east: We’re coming” acting as if the Eastern population is held prisoner by the opposition.

Qaddafi troops earlier claimed victory over Zawiya, a town about 30 miles from Tripoli that had been held by rebels.

The town was the scene of intense fighting on Wednesday, with the town’s central square reportedly changing hands several times as rebels tried to hold off an onslaught by Qaddafi tanks and snipers. By the end of the day, government forces claimed to have gained the upper hand.

“Qaddafi is in this for the long haul,” James Clapper said, as reported in the BBC. “I don’t think he has any intention, despite some of the press speculation to the contrary, of leaving. From all evidence that we have… he appears to be hunkering down for the duration.”

American and other intelligence officials claim that Qaddafi has tens of billions of dollars in cash hidden away in Tripoli that will enable him to continue his fight against the rebels.

The money, which is controlled by Qaddafi, enables the leader to pay his troops, mercenaries and political supporters as the uprising continues for a third week.

The EU showed signs of confusion and disunity Thursday over how to handle the Libya crisis, the Independent reports.

As the EU tried to present a unified front, France chose to break out on its own and become the first nation to recognize the rebels’ national council as the country’s “legitimate representative.” Way to go, France.

“France is playing the role of breaking the ice for the European Union. This is the first nail in the coffin of Qaddafi. I expect Europe and Italy to follow as they consume the majority of Libyan oil.” stated, Heart of America’s Executive Editor, Denise Haywald.

Divisions also emerged over a decision to implement a no fly zone over Libya. Some European countries and the United States have expressed hesitation over being drawn into what could become a civil war.

“We do not want to get sucked into a war in North Africa,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

I cant say I blame the hesitation as placing sanctions and removing military and embassy operations is one but instituting a no fly zone which can only be done by controlling the Libyan air space, is quite another.

Copyright (c) March 10, 2011. All rights reserved.