Qaddafi Forces Use Tanks in Assault on Rebel Stronghold Misrata

Armed forces loyal to the regime of Muammar Qaddafi assaulted the Libyan city of Misrata, a rebel stronghold, using tanks and artillery as the siege for control in the North African country enters a fifth month.

Government forces attacked the line around the village of Dafniya west of Misrata, in the heaviest attacks in a month, said Sedek Shalbad, commander of the rebel Hatin Brigade. Misrata’s Mujema Aleiadat hospital reported 10 rebel fighters dead and more 50 wounded by 3 p.m. local time and said it had also treated a wounded government soldier.

“There is a big war now between Qaddafi forces and the rebels,” Shalbad said. “There are tanks, there are infantry, they are attacking our lines.”

Artillery and rocket detonations from the direction of the western front line could be heard by residents of Misrata throughout the morning and again in the late afternoon. The attack comes after relative quiet on the front line at Dafniya, and 15 days after rebel units advanced from Dafniya to build trenches close to the government-held town of Zlitan.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has supported the rebel fighters with a campaign that has lasted since March. The conflict remains at a stalemate, with Qaddafi retaining control of Tripoli, and rebel offensives in recent weeks failing to capture Brega in the east or Zlitan, near Misrata, in the west.

The rebels’ Transitional National Council is recognized by about 30 nations as Libya’s legitimate governing authority. The council is investigating the death of rebel military chief Abdel Fattah Younis, who was shot dead earlier this week along with two of his aides.

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