"We cannot sustain this fight by ourselves and the air strikes have not
worked," a rebel source said. "Either we get ground troops here or we flee
for the desert."
On April 19, a leading rebel representative, Nouri Abdullah Abdul Ati,
called on NATO to send ground forces to protect the coastal city of Misrata
from Gadhafi, Middle East Newsline reported. Misrata has marked the last coastal city under rebel control
and its port was used for resupply of both residents and the rebels.
In his appeal, Ati said unless NATO or United Nations forces arrive
soon, the people in Misrata would be killed or die of hunger. He marked the
first rebel leader to call for foreign troop intervention in Libya.
So far, Britain and France have agreed to send military advisers and
equipment to the rebel movement. The United States has promised to ship
non-lethal equipment as well.
But the rebel sources said the pledges were insufficient to stop
Gadhafi's assault. They said Gadhafi has at least 20,000 well-armed
soldiers whose combat skills were improving with time.
"They now can operate even if NATO planes are flying above," the rebel
source said. "They can absorb air strikes and still come back a day later."
Gadhafi has focused on recapturing Misrata amid operations by armed
U.S.-origin unmanned aerial vehicles. The rebels said Gadhafi forces fired
200 BM-21 Grad rockets toward the port of Misrata on April 14, which forced
a temporary closure of the facility. The regime was also said to have sent
snipers and laid improvised explosive devices around Misrata amid reports of
a tactical withdrawal.
"I have received information about 15 people who were martyred and 31
wounded as a result of ambushes by Gadhafi brigades at the site of their
withdrawal," rebel spokesman Abdul Basset Abu Mezerik said.
Regime forces have also used Katyusha-class rockets in attacks on other
rebel-held towns. On April 23, the rebels reported the capture of Yafran by
Gadhafi forces amid a barrage of Grads.
"They are firing mortars and Grad missiles," another rebel spokesman,
identified only as Ezref, told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite channel.