Rebel fighters stand at the entrance of the university of the key old port of Brega on their way to battle against loyalist troops on April 4, 2011. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)
Rebel forces took parts of strategic oil port city Brega on Monday but were beaten back by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in a barrage of shelling. The battle marks another turn in the ever-shifting territorial battle between government and opposition forces over the past couple of months, with rebels aided by international coalition air strikes but still at a disadvantage in ground equipment and weaponry.
The government continued its sustained attacks on Misrata, the westernmost city in rebel hands and which has been bombarded for weeks. A Turkish medical ship took an estimated 300 injured rebel fighters aboard for treatment.
Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi, a Gadhafi envoy, is in Europe and hopes to hold talks in Turkey on possible diplomatic solutions to the conflict. Gadhafi had previously agreed to the United Nations’ conditions of a cease fire but continued with attacks. The New York Times reported that Gadhafi’s sons have offered a deal in which son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi would oversee a democratic transition. Last week, Gadhafi’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa flew to London and defected, raising questions about his inner circle.
The United States has emphasized its current supporting role, handing control over operations to NATO last week and planning to stop using its jets for air strikes Monday. There has been debate within the coalition nations as to whether the rebels should be armed, as two weeks of air strikes — which officials say are designed to protect civilians, not aid in the conflict — have not led to a decisive victory for rebel forces. President Obama has insisted that the United States will not send any ground troops but has not eliminated the possibility of aiding in arms.