Libyan revolutionaries, who last week struggled to move west along the coast from their eastern stronghold of Benghazi, could recapture Sirte, a Mediterranean city located 360 kilometers (225 miles) east of Tripoli, on Monday, Reuters reported.
On Sunday night, US and allied warplanes struck Gaddafi’s forces as well as their tanks and artillery in Sirte. The airstrike coincided with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization assuming command of all aspects of the military operation against oil-rich Libya.
Libyan revolutionaries managed to recapture the oil port of Ras Lanuf on Sunday after they had entered Brega earlier in the day.
They took control of the strategic Ajdabiya, a key oil town just 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the opposition stronghold of Benghazi, on Saturday.
Libyan state TV has announced that at least 114 people, including several civilians, have been killed and 445 others injured in a week-long campaign of US-led military airstrikes in the oil-rich country.
“From March 20 to March 23, the attacks have killed 114 people and injured 445 people,” the network quoted Libyan Health Minister Khaled Omar as saying at a press conference in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on Saturday.
According to government figures, 104 people were killed in Tripoli, while another 10 civilians lost their lives in Sirte, the hometown of the Libyan head of state.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says some 351,600 people have fled crisis-hit Libya for fear of violence and around 1,500 to 2,000 are making their way to Egypt each day.
According to US military officials, more than 350 aircraft are participating in the US-led campaign of military airstrikes against Libya to protect civilians from Libyan regime’s attacks.
Apart from the United States, twelve countries from the European Union are taking part in Operation Odyssey Dawn, which began on March 19 after the UN Security Council imposed a no-fly zone over troubled Libya to “protect civilians” from Gaddafi’s attacks.
The rising civilian death toll in Libya has set off a frenzy of speculations about the real motive behind the war in the country, with many analysts saying that under the guise of protecting civilians, as enshrined in the UN Security Council resolution 1973, Washington and its Western allies are basically after the North African country’s vast oil reserves.