Libyan rebels closed in on Tripoli from two sides today, bringing them closer than ever to Moammar Gadhafi’s stronghold. Rebels from the Nafusa mountains, armed with French weaponry, took the desert village of Gualish a scant 62 miles south of the capital, according to an AFP reporter embedded with them. Meanwhile, rebels from Misrata approached to within around 81 miles of the city from the west, despite taking casualties from artillery fire.
The advances come amid reports that Gadhafi is trying to negotiate an end to the conflict and an exit from power, with one official telling Reuters that they expect a deal by the beginning of August. The battle for Gualish could be a major turning point. “Things will change on the front line,” one colonel promised. Rebels say they got the OK from NATO before launching the attack, and NATO planes flew overhead, though they launched no attacks.