Rebels Launch Surprise Attacks in West Libya
Taking the oil port of Zawiyah could be devastating to Gadhafi
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2011 7:08 AM CDT
Rebels prepare before attacking Gadhafi troops on the frontline of Dafneya near Misrata, Libya, Saturday, June 11, 2011. Rebels were battling forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi along the Mediterranean coast...   (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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(Newser) – Surprise rebel attacks all over western Libya, including on the vital oil port of Zawiyah, could be the first step of a big push toward Tripoli, reports the Washington Post. “They are making very good progress,” said a rebel spokesman. “I think we’re headed for the finale—the implosion of Tripoli.” With Gadhafi's food and oil supplies low and forces weakened because of intense NATO bombings—157 on Wednesday alone—rebels are moving, in the Jebel Nafusa mountains southwest of Tripoli, in Misurata in the east, and in Zawiyah.

The Gadhafi government, however, downplayed the attack, calling it a "very small fight" by 20 to 25 rebels. “They do not pose any danger to us,” said a spokesman. Despite the devastation Libya's military infrastructure has suffered—troop numbers are estimated to be down to 10,000 to 20,000—experts caution that Gadhafi could continue to hold onto power for some time. "I believe he may still have enough manpower to keep him in the war for months yet," said one Libyan analyst. Click for Gadhafi's thank-you note to Congress.