Libyan rebels regained control of the eastern gateway city of Ajdabiya today after international airstrikes on Moammar Gadhafi's forces, in the first major turnaround for an uprising that once appeared on the verge of defeat. Ajdabiya's sudden fall to Gadhafi's troops spurred the swift UN resolution authorizing international action in Libya, and its return to rebel hands today came after a week of airstrikes on Gadhafi's military. On the road into the city, at least eight blackened Gadhafi tanks lay on the ground.
Stores and houses were shuttered after the weeklong siege that left residents without electricity or drinking water, but drivers honked horns in celebration and flew the tricolor rebel flag. Others in the city fired their guns into the air. "All of Ajdabiya is free," said a rebel. Yesterday, the US commander in charge of the overall international mission, Army Gen. Carter Ham, said, "We could easily destroy all the regime forces that are in Ajdabiya," but the city itself would be destroyed in the process. "We'd be killing the very people that we're charged with protecting." Instead, the focus was on disrupting the communications and supply lines that allow Gadhafi's forces to keep fighting in Ajdabiya and other urban areas like Misrata, Ham said.