The guns are silent around Bani Walid and the former Libyan rebels, now interim government forces, are holding back from a final assault on the town and its diehard Gaddafi supporters.
In a bid to stop further loss of life after five days of unexpectedly heavy fighting, the National Transitional Council has told its forces to stop for a 48-hour break, and has told the residents of Bani Walid to leave. The town is dominated by the Warfalla tribe, a pillar of the Gaddafi regime.
When the final attack comes the government forces have new weapons at their disposal and reinforcements have arrived to deal with the well-armed and determined Gaddafi loyalists holding well-prepared positions in the town.
Bani Walid is one of three strongholds left in Libya still controlled by Gaddafi forces. The others are the former dictator’s home town of Sirte, and the remote southern desert garrison of Sabha.
The new government has made it clear it wants its forces to exercise restraint. Interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said as much in his first speech to the people of Tripoli last night, and he now wants to get the country back to normal as quickly as possible.