Der Spiegel reports:
No one was paying much attention to the time, but it was probably a few minutes before 11 a.m. on Tuesday of last week when the action began in Tripoli, clearly visible from the windows of the Rixos hotel.
The morning hours are usually calm in Tripoli, and this too was a quiet, clear morning. Behind the tall trees in the adjacent park lies Bab al-Aziziya, the fortress-like headquarters of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The compound is as large as an entire city neighborhood and is surrounded by a massive wall, machine gun nests, barriers and watchtowers. It’s a short walk from the hotel to Bab al-Aziziya.
Suddenly the first jet came screaming through the sky, but the noise it made was different this time: higher, shriller and much louder. Then the sound of loud explosions punctuated the air. The walls shook and the bombing continued unabated.
NATO jets were attacking Tripoli at low altitude for the first time. They came in waves separated by a few minutes. Then, around 2 p.m., they came a second time. They dropped 60 to 80 large bombs. Giant brown and black clouds of smoke rose into the sky on the other side of the park.
The bombing represents a new phase in the war over Libya, say NATO officials, who are trying to increase pressure on Gadhafi. They know that time is short, now that the Libyan leader appears to have his back against the wall. In Tripoli, it feels as if the NATO forces were now directly targeting the dictator, a man responsible for the deaths of so many people. In theory, however, Gadhafi can not be made into a target, because the United Nations resolution on Libya only permits the Western forces to engage in actions intended to protect civilians.
Meanwhile, a group of reporters from around the world are holed up in the five-star luxury of the Rixos, watching the hunt at close range — in an atmosphere that couldn’t be more bizarre, at room prices of €300 ($435) a night and dinner at $50 a person.
Some would call it perverse, the idea that journalists are spooning the foam from their cappuccinos in the hotel’s outdoor bar while precision bombs rip apart bunkers and probably soldiers just beyond the nearby trees. But life at the Rixos and at Bab al-Aziziya follows its own rules. Gadhafi’s people escort the reporters to the hotel, and guards are posted in the driveway to prevent them from setting out on their own. Anyone who wants to investigate the situation outside the hotel must do so in the company of a friendly government “minder.” Of course, this makes it impossible to speak with rebels in the city.
As Washington urged African countries to reject the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, rebels reported progress Monday against government forces in western mountain cities.
After a siege of nearly two months, rebels have freed the city of Al-Rayyana, northeast of Zintan, said Talha Al-Jiwali, a rebel fighter. Nine rebels were killed, and 35 were wounded, he said.
Al-Jiwali said forces entering Al-Rayyana found that more than 20 residents had been killed, a number of the women had been raped, and the town’s electricity and water had been cut.
In nearby Zawiet al-Baqool, just east of Zintan, 500 to 600 government forces retained control, but the fighting was ongoing, he said.
The Times reports:
One of the greatest abandoned cities of the Ancient World is at risk of destruction after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces took over the ruins of Leptis Magna as a base for operations, rebel leaders claimed yesterday .
Rebel commanders in the city of Misrata said that Libyan government troops had moved Grad rockets and munitions into the World Heritage Site, on the coast between Misrata and Tripoli, to avoid NATO bombing.
“We received information yesterday that Gaddafi’s forces are hiding inside Leptis Magna,” said Abu Mohammad, the overall commander of rebel forces for the nearby town of Zlitan.