The Independent reports:
Another town falls. Another hook of the trap around Tripoli locks into place. More die, more homes burn, the hatred deepens. But after months of savage strife, there is now a sense that the endgame is at last approaching in Libya’s bloody civil war.
The latest battleground was Sabratha, an ancient city and Unesco heritage site. Yesterday I walked through its streets, now in rebel hands after prolonged and fierce fighting. This has further cut off Muammar Gaddafi’s regime from its lifeline to the outside world, depriving it of food, fuel and reinforcements. “We are going to Tripoli and meet Gaddafi,” shouted a rebel fighter waving his Kalashnikov. It was a battle-cry we have heard many times in the past, but now that final journey may not be too far away.
Underlining the sense of desperation and foreboding in the Libyan capital, the United Nations announced yesterday that it was mounting an emergency evacuation of the thousands of foreigners trapped there. A spokeswoman for the International Organisation for Migration stressed: “We have a very limited window of opportunity to carry out this operation because of the fighting.”
The New York Times reported:
Tens of thousands of other foreigners fled Libya in the conflict’s early stages, many overland into neighboring Tunisia. But that route has now been effectively blocked by increasingly emboldened rebel forces.
It is unclear whether Colonel Qaddafi, whose four-decade hold on power in Libya looks increasingly tenuous, will authorize a foreign-supervised departure of the remaining foreign nationals in Tripoli. There are still many thousands there, a large number of them Egyptians.
“We don’t know how many migrants are left in Tripoli and how many in total want to leave,” said Jemini Pandya, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, said in a telephone interview. “But we can say we’re seeing an increase in the number of requests.”
Charles Levinson reports from Gharyan in Libya’s Western Mountains:
Long regarded as the Libyan leader’s Western Mountain stronghold, Gharyan’s defenses collapsed in just four or five hours on Sunday, one day after the battle for Zawiya began. It took another 24 hours to clear out the last remnants of Col. Gadhafi’s forces from the city.
“We had always been told how important Gharyan was, we heard Gadhafi had brough in reinforcements, but when we attacked, it all dissolved,” said Adel Seger, a rebel commander in the city. Still, rebels said they lost 35 fighters in the battle to retake the city.
Rebels marched through the city’s streets firing rifles into the air and waving rebel flags on Friday. They also buried their dead, including a 19-year-old boy killed by a sniper.
At the boy’s gravesite, his brothers wept and had to be carried away draped over their friends’ shoulders. There were hints of the scars that six months of civil war have left on Libyan society. One resident, Faisal Jailani, said one of the snipers who had terrorized the city’s residents had lived among them for nearly 30 years, before rebels captured him this week.
“We helped raise this boy. How could he turn against us like this?” wondered Mr. Jailani. “I hope he hangs.”
But for the rest of the city, Friday was a day of jubilation. Muftah al-Arabi reopened his camera shop and recounted how Col. Gadhafi’s henchmen used to show up and demand free services, such as, on one occasion, 1,000 posters of Col. Gadhafi. If he refused, he would be branded a dissident and jailed, he said.
“He’s finished, Gadhafi is finished,” Mr. Arabi said, with a beaming smile.
That buoyant optimism has infected rebel ranks. In recent days, as rebels have advanced closer to Tripoli, there have been an increasing flow of reports in Arab and Western media outlets that the end of Col. Gadhafi’s rule is imminent.