Libyan rebels appear to have put government troops on the back foot, forcing them to retreat into Tripoli.
Those fighting to topple Muammar Gaddafi have seized two strategic towns near the capital over the past two days, cutting the city off from its supply lines.
Rebel commander Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani explained how his forces would attack the Libyan capital: “We will attack Tripoli from two sides. So I don’t think Gaddafi will have any chance to win, and he won’t even have a place to go or escape.”
Such is the rebel momentum that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta believes the six-month-old conflict could be nearing its end.
“The combination of NATO forces there, the combination of what the opposition is doing, the sanctions, the international pressure, the work of the Arab League – all that has been very helpful in moving this in the right direction. I think the sense is that Gaddafi’s days are numbered,” Panetta said.
NATO has kept up its airstrikes ostensibly to protect civilians. However it has come under increasing international criticism from some governments which claim it has gone beyond the limited mandate provided by a UN Security Council resolution.