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Last updated at 16:27 BST, Monday, 28 March 2011

Libyan rebels fight back against government


28 March 2011

Rebels in Libya have retaken control of a number of towns that they had recently been forced to leave by government troops. Fierce fighting continues between the rebels and Libyan government forces, loyal to Colonel Gaddafi.

Jonathan Marcus

Rebels near Ras Lanuf, Libya

The rebels have made significant gains in Libya


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Amidst all the dramatic headlines about the rebel advances in Libya, two things are clear. Firstly: that the rebel forces still have a very limited offensive punch. Libyan government units seem to have dissolved in front of them, rather than being defeated in battle. Secondly: the retreat of the Libyan government forces has been caused by the damage they have sustained from the air. We do not know how extensive the air attacks have been, but they clearly have dented the Libyan government forces' morale.

Continuing air attacks will reach a point where they are no longer ensuring the protection of civilians, but aiding the offensive operations of the rebels. Some might argue that point has already come. Inevitably, this will cause strains within NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation). No wonder then that diplomatic efforts are beginning to focus on the end game in this crisis.

A major conference involving the coalition countries and the Arab League is to be held in London. The Italians are already talking about an exit route for Colonel Gaddafi himself and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is casting himself in the role of a mediator to attempt to bring about a ceasefire.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC News


Click to hear the vocabulary:


rebel advances

progress made by anti-government fighters into government-controlled areas

offensive punch

fighting strength or impact


melted away, or disappeared (as if giving up)


here, damaged


ordinary people who are not in the armed forces or police

offensive operations

organised warfare


tensions or disagreements

the coalition countries

the foreign nations (including the UK and France) whose armies are fighting together in Libya

an exit route

a way out

a mediator

a person who tries to get agreement between groups or people who disagree with each other

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