Gaddafi pushes deep
THE world moved a step closer to a decision on imposing a no-fly zone over Libya but President Muammar Gaddafi was swiftly advancing on the poorly equipped and loosely organised rebels who have seized much of the country.
Gaddafi’s forces pushed the front line miles deeper into rebel territory on Saturday and violence erupted at the front door of the opposition stronghold in eastern Libya, where an Al-Jazeera cameraman slain in an ambush became the first journalist killed in the nearly monthlong conflict.
In Cairo, the Arab League asked the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone to protect the rebels, increasing pressure on the US and other Western powers to take act i on t hat most have expressed deep reservations about.
In surprisingly swift action and aggressive language, the 22-member Arab bloc said after an emergency meeting that the Libyan government had ‘‘ lost its sovereignty’’. It asked the United Nations to ‘‘ shoulder its responsibility ... to impose a no-fly zone over the movement of Libyan military planes and to create safe zones in the places vulnerable to airstrikes’’.
Western diplomats have said Arab and African approval was necessary before the Security Council voted on imposing a no-fly zone, which would be imposed by NATO nations to protect civilians from air attack by Gaddafi’s forces.
The US and many allies have expressed deep reservations about the effectiveness of a no-fly zone, and the possibility it could drag them into another messy conflict in the Muslim world.
General Abdel - Fattah Younis, the country’s interior minister before defecting, told The Associated Press that Gaddafi’s forces had driven even further into rebel territory, past the refinery at Ras Lanouf and were now just 40km outside Brega, the site of another major oil terminal. Fewer rebel supporters were seen by an Associated Press reporter further east, suggesting morale had taken a hit as the momentum shifted in favour of the regime.
Outside the rebel stronghold of Benghazi deep in opposition territory , al - Jazeeracame r a ma n Al i Hassan al-Jaber was killed in what the pan-Arab satellite station described as an ambush.
Correspondent Bay bah Wald Amhadi said the crew’s car came under fire from the rear as it returned from an assignment south of Benghazi. Al-Jaber was shot three times in the back and a fourth bullet hit another correspondent near the ear and wounded him, Amhadi said.
‘‘ Even areas under rebel control are not totally safe,’’ he said.
‘‘ There are followers, eyes or fifth columns, for Colonel Gaddafi.’’
The Libyan government took reporters from the capital, Tripoli, 600km east by plane and bus to show off its control of the former frontline town of Bin Jawwad, the scene of brutal battles six days earlier between insurgents and Gaddafi loyalists using artillery, rockets and helicopter gunships.
A police station was completely destroyed, its windows shattered, walls blackened and burned and broken furniture inside. A nearby school had holes in the roof and a wall. Homes nearby were empty and cars were overturned or left as charred hulks in the road.
Rubble filled the streets and a sulphurous smell hung in the air. The tour continued 64km to the east in Ras Lanouf, an oil port of boxy, sand-coloured buildings.
The area was silent and devoid of any sign of life, with laundry still fluttering on lines strung across balconies.
GRATEFUL: A Libyan woman holds a placard thanking France
during a rally for the imposition of a no-fly zone