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NATO airstrikes near the oil city of Brega (Marsa al-Buraiqa) on Tuesday morning repelled the advance of an 8-vehicle military convoy of Qaddafi loyalists. The Transitional government in Benghazi is eager to gain control of Brega, from which they were pushed back on Monday night, because they could then export petroleum from it under a deal they have done with Qatar.
The significance of the strike on the convoy is manifold. Qaddafi doesn’t have infinite amounts of heavy military equipment, and every tank or armored vehicle he loses degrades his ability to control a country that for the most part doesn’t want him. When urban crowds and rebel forces have faced Qaddafi loyalists and both have just had light arms, the rebels have typically prevailed. NATO estimates that 30% of Qaddafi’s military capacity has been knocked out. It is now concentrating on rescuing Misrata, the country’s 3rd largest city, which is under a tank and artillery siege. Qaddafi’s use of camouflage and human shields is making the targetting difficult for the UN-authorized bombing missions.
Another significance of the strike is that it may well discourage soldiers loyal to Qaddafi from trying to attack the rebels, and may encourage them to defect to the Benghazi government. So far the NATO strikes on Qaddafi convoys have been intermittent, and so many commanders may have thought that the risks are bearable. But if the strikes become more consistent they will likely take a psychological toll.
The pro-democracy government in Benghazi are sending off $100 mn. worth of petroleum from the eastern city of Tobruk, with a Liberian tanker expected to arrive Tuesday. If the struggle is protracted, control of petroleum resources will be key to the reform government’s victory over Qaddafi loyalists. If they can regain control of Ra’s Lanuf and therefore of the Buraiqa basin, they would have the bulk of oil resources on their side of the country. Qaddafi would still have natural gas, but it is not clear that the United Nations will permit him to export it, and gas is harder to smuggle than is petroleum.
Time reports unconfirmed information that fighting has resurged in Zawiya, the western port that threw off Qaddafi rule in February and early march before being brutally reoccupied by tank brigades from Tripoli. Qaddafi’s spokesman admitted on Monday for the first time that civilians were killed in the taking of the city.
Qaddafi’s forces are still shelling the city of Zintan, southwest of Tripoli, but it has apparently held out. The Zintan tribe declared against Qaddafi, and has desert networks that allow it to offer aid to the continued, now-underground resistance in Zawiya, keeping it alive. The sort of indiscriminate tank fire on civilian areas practiced by Qaddafi on Zintan is a war crime that he may well end up being tried for at the Hague.
Italy has recognized the Transitional government in Benghazi, rebuffing a proposal from Tripoli that one of Qaddafi’s sons preside over a transition to a new government. The Italian foreign minister called the Qaddafi offer ‘not credible,’ which is almost certainly true. The Benghazi government also rejected the overture and called for the Qaddafis to leave the country.
In other news, The Fateh Party in the West Bank has launched an investigation into charges by the Benghazi government that its ships had intercepted a shipment of Israeli arms intended for Qaddafi’s forces, in which Palestinian figures were implicated, including Muhammad Dahlan.
Aljazeera English has video on recent developments in Libya:
Indian peasants in Maharashtra are protesting plans to build a nuclear plant on an earthquake fault at Jaitapur. India has an ambitious set of plans to build 21 further nuclear reactors. The peasants were already worried, but the partial melt-down at the Fukushima plant in Japan, and especially the venting of radioactive water into the sea there, has the peasants worried as never before. Some 77% of Indians say they are anxious about India’s plans to build so many nuclear plants.
Aljazeera English has video
Meanwhile, Israeli scientists at the National Solar Energy Center in Israel are now arguing that with improvements in batteries and energy storage, the days when a country could generate 90% of its energy from renewable sources is much nearer than it had seemed only a few years ago.
The Independent reports April 3 eye-witness accounts that “Military and diplomatic operatives from the US and Western Europe—usually described as experts, consultants and advisers—turned up in the rebel capital, Benghazi. These include UK personnel, among them a former Royal Navy officer who had recently served as a diplomat in Afghanistan. He said he was in Libya as a consultant to the opposition administration.” The word comes as Reuters reports that Tripoli has dispatched deputy foreign minister Abdelati Obeidi to Athens in a diplomatic initiative to end the conflict.
After so many civilian deaths, something has to be done to prevent a complete slaughter. The Guardian:
UN helicopters have attacked President Laurent Gbagbo’s forces in Ivory Coast, destroying their weapons at four places where they had been shelling civilians, a UN spokesman said.
The helicopters fired four missiles at a Gbagbo military camp in the main city of Abidjan, witnesses told Reuters. “We saw two UN MI-24 helicopters fire missiles on the Akouedo military camp. There was a massive explosion and we can still see the smoke,” one said. The camp is home to three battalions of the Ivorian army.
Hamadoun Toure, spokesman for the UN mission in Ivory Coast, said in an email: “We launched an operation to neutralise heavy weapons Gbagbo’s special forces have been using against the civilian population for the last three months. We destroyed them in four locations.”