Cairo: Hundreds of rebels in western Libya launched a broad offensive against government forces on Thursday, seizing three small towns and advancing on others to secure a major supply route near the Tunisian border, rebel spokesmen said.
Four rebel fighters were killed and several wounded in what the spokesmen described as the biggest push in the area since the start of Libya’s civil war five months ago. They said rebels captured 18 government soldiers, as well as weapons and ammunition.
Libya’s civil war has been largely deadlocked, despite shifting front lines, and rebels have been unable to score a major breakthrough on the battle field.
Rebels control Libya’s eastern third and most of the Nafusa mountains in the west, as well as the western port city of Misrata.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, entrenched in the capital of Tripoli, is clinging to the rest of the territory.
In today’s fighting, hundreds of rebels descended from their stronghold in the Nafusa mountains at dawn and advanced in several areas along a stretch of more than 100 kilometers, said Badees Fessato, a rebel spokesman.
He said opposition forces drove government troops out of the small towns of Jawsh and Ghezaya, and moved toward the towns of Badr and Takut.
Jawsh is about 150 kilometers east of the Tunisian border and located along a main road between Tunisia and Tripoli. Ghezaya is closer to the Tunisian border.
One of the objectives of the push is to drive back pro-Gaddafi forces from the rebels’ main supply route between the Tunisian border and the Nafusa mountains, he said.
Rebels seized control of the Tunisian-Libyan border closest to the Nafusa area in April, but Gaddafi’s forces have repeatedly tried to retake it and have shelled the supply road.
In a separate development, the rebels said they had detained their own top military commander for questioning on suspicion his family might still have ties to regime.
Rebel military spokesman Mohammed al-Rijali said the commander, Abdel Fattah Younes, was taken from his operations room near the front to the main rebel stronghold, the eastern city of Benghazi, for interrogation. Zeenews