TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 16 (UPI) — Rebel forces in Libya said they have made strategic advances and hope to enter Tripoli by the end of the month.
The statement came as rebel fighters battled Tuesday in Zawiyah, 33 miles west of the capital, as they strive to topple Col. Moammar Gadhafi, CNN reported.
“We will be very careful entering Tripoli, which we hope to do by the end of this month,” said Col. Ahmed Banni, military spokesman for the opposition National Transitional Council.
CNN reported the rebels have made advances in the south and east and control much of Zawiyah and towns west of it, including Surman and Subrata.
“It is a huge deal and a decisive defeat for (Gadhafi’s) forces in that region. All these areas are liberated,” Banni said.
Intelligence indicates some Gadhafi forces are moving to Tripoli from Terhouna in the southeast and Sirte farther east, Banni said. In a “dangerous” sign that troops are preparing for a “bloody war,” he said, many have taken off their uniforms so they blend in with the population.
Col. Jumma Ibrahim, a spokesman for the rebels’ western command, said Gadhafi forces have control of most of the eastern part of Zawiyah, where fighters were shelling the rebels with missiles and artillery.
“There are still skirmishes with the brigades in the city center, with snipers taking positions,” Ibrahim said. “The fight is now urban warfare there at the moment. There have been a lot injured among our ranks but it is hard to give a number.”