News / Middle East

Correspondent Debriefer: Libya Rebels Continue to Pin Hopes on No-Fly Zone

A Libyan rebel fighter sits on a truck as he fires an anti-aircraft gun on a government warplane (file photo)
A Libyan rebel fighter sits on a truck as he fires an anti-aircraft gun on a government warplane (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio
Susan Yackee

Libyan rebels and government forces have staged several offensives in the battle for control of the country. To get a clearer picture of the situation on the ground, VOA’s Susan Yackee spoke to our correspondent Phil Ittner who is currently in the opposition-held town of Benghazi.

Ittner: The opposition leadership says that it has actually pushed back against what amounts to a counter-offensive by government troops. Those lines in the desert seem to be moving back and forth. Now, independently confirming where exactly the frontline is very difficult. Not only is it too dangerous for many journalists to go [there], but it’s a wide frontline, it being an open desert.

Listen to Susan Yackee’s debriefer with Phil Ittner:


The opposition says, however, that they pushed back into the oil town of Brega, that they took prisoners, that they killed some soldiers and pushed back against a government offensive.

Yackee: Are the rebels feeling demoralized?


Ittner: It comes and goes for the mood and the morale here in opposition-held [parts of] Libya. There is occasionally an awful lot of anxiety when they see the government pushing in this direction, but then it reverses when they think they are on the cusp of getting the international no-fly zone. Obviously, they are keeping a very close eye on diplomatic efforts both in Brussels and in New York.

A lot of the opposition leadership is heartened by the fact that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is meeting with an opposition delegation in Paris today. They do also point to the fact, at least in their minds, what they say, is the status of Gadhafi’s forces. They say that the actual troops of Mr. Gadhafi are demoralized; they are stretched with their supply lines, that he actually has very few frontline-proficient expert troops, that he is relying on his artillery, his planes and his tanks, and that the troops he has are actually demoralized.

VOA correspondent Phil Ittner on assignment in Benghazi, Libya
VOA correspondent Phil Ittner on assignment in Benghazi, Libya
So the mood does change within the opposition day-to-day. But the fact that apparently they have pushed back into Brega, the fact that they have captured opposition troops or so they say, and that these troops seem to be in a very poor state shows, in their minds, once there is movement on the international no-fly zone, that they will flood into the west quite quickly and that what they call the house of cards of Mr. Gadhafi’s forces will collapse quickly.

Yackee: Libyan state television is saying that the government has offered amnesty to any soldier that had defected and joined the rebels, but returns and surrenders to the military – is there any reaction to that?

Ittner: Actually, quite to the contrary. The opposition says that they are getting more defectors, that people are coming to their side, and that this kind of offer just shows the desperation in Tripoli of the Gadhafi regime. They also point to the fact that they have just appointed a new commander of their forces, a gentleman by the name of Abdel Yunis, who was the commander of the special forces brigade, who defected early in the uprising, but was reluctant to take command because of the command structure. Apparently, he felt that he could not take orders from officers that had previously been working under him.

And there was some reluctance on the opposition’s side, because Yunis had been very close to the Gadhafi regime. So although he had defected, he had not been on the front lines - him or his reported 2,500 soldiers . [unintelligible] … this coincides with what the opposition is saying – that it was a tactical maneuver that helped them move back into Brega. So, if you put the two together – the fact that there is a new military commander on the opposition side, and if reports that they moved back into Brega are accurate, it does show that there is a shift in the opposition forces and that there is a little bit more proficiency.

All of this is, of course, very hard to confirm and the accuracy of where that frontline is and what is going on on that frontline is very difficult [to ascertain]. There is a lot of concern among the opposition forces about possible fifth-columnists or infiltrators, pro-Gadhafi elements that may sneak into what is basically a volunteers force – so there is some anxiety there, some suspicion, and so there is a lot more control of movement leading to the frontline.

In addition to that there has been some souring of attitudes toward journalists, because they think that some of the information the world press is putting out is assisting the intelligence gathering capability of Mr. Gadhafi. So it’s very tenuous on the frontline. It’s very hard to get an accurate report, but here in Benghazi what the opposition is saying is: yes, we have seen setbacks, but we are convinced that this is only due to the heavy weaponry the government can bring to bear, not the amount of troops or the support or will of the people. The opposition says: when we get this no-fly-zone, this thing will collapse quickly and the Gadhafi family will run into exile in short order.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs