Gadhafi Loyalists Launch Mammoth Misrata Attack
Thousands of troops attack rebel-held city
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2011 4:19 AM CDT
Updated Jun 9, 2011 4:40 AM CDT
A wounded man is brought into the hospital in Misrata, Libya, yesterday.   (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)
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(Newser) – Forces loyal to increasingly cornered Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi launched a major offensive against the rebel-held city of Misrata yesterday. Thousands of troops attacked the city and it was shelled from three sides, a rebel leader tells CNN. Rebel fighters say their defenses held up under the onslaught, but at least 17 rebels were killed in the heaviest fighting the besieged city has seen in more than a week. Pro-regime fighters have been attacking in vehicles disguised to look like rebel ones, with the letter "N" painted on top to fool NATO aircraft overhead, witnesses tell the Wall Street Journal.

NATO plans to continue pounding Gadhafi's forces from the air but it will play no part in the transition to democratic rule after the leader is ousted, leaving that role to the United Nations, notes AP. "For Gadhafi, it is no longer a question of if he goes but when he goes," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters. He did not offer a clear answer when asked why he thought airstrikes would dislodge the leader, when "the history of the last 30 years" has shown that airstrikes alone don't win wars.