The Washington Post reports:
Buoyed by U.S. and allied airstrikes that relieved a siege of Benghazi, Libyan rebels launched an offensive early Monday aimed at retaking the strategic city of Ajdabiya, as Western warplanes continued pounding forces loyal to longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi.
Explosions and plumes of smoke marked the scene of the strikes against Gaddafi’s forces in Ajdabiya, about 100 miles south of the rebels’ de facto capital of Benghazi, and advancing rebels cheered when Western warplanes flew overhead. The rebels by Monday had regained control of Zuwaytinah, an oil terminal about 16 miles northwest of Ajdabiya that had been captured by loyalist forces last week, news agencies reported
Despite the airstrikes, however, Gaddafi’s forces were digging in outside Ajdabiya, which straddles highways that go north to Benghazi and east across the desert to Tobruk.
From a point about five miles from the northern entrance to Ajdabiya, rebels jumped into dozens of vehicles and made a massive push toward the city Monday when they heard jets in the air and the sounds of bombardment. But after about half a mile, the rebels came under fire from loyalist tank and mortar shelling and promptly turned back.
Afterward, rebel commanders said they plan to wait for more allied airstrikes against Gaddafi’s forces before pushing forward again.
In Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, anti-Gaddafi spokesmen said the rebels ultimately still plan to march on Tripoli, the Libyan capital where the 68-year-old strongman remains ensconced. Opposition spokesman Ahmed al-Hasi said the rebels would welcome more airstrikes but want to achieve their aims without the intervention of foreign ground troops, Reuters news agency reported.