TRIPOLI – Libyan opposition forces have pushed further to isolate Tripoli, moving toward a western town that links the capital and Sirte – Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown and a stronghold for0 his military, Al Jazeera informs.
“The scouting teams of the revolutionaries reached the outskirts of Al-Heisha after expelling Gaddafi forces,” the rebel military command said in a statement early on Wednesday. Al-Heisha lies roughly 70km south of Misurata and 250km from Tripoli, near two key crossroads that link loyalist-held territory in the west with that in the oil-rich Sirte basin. It was just the latest in a series of battlefield operations to isolate the capital. In addition to gaining a foothold in Az-Zawiyah, rebels said they had taken two towns near Tripoli on key supply roads Gharyan, 80 km south of the capital and Surman, less than 16 km west of Az-Zawiyah.
Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim acknowledged in remarks broadcast on state television that rebel fighters were in Gharyan. “There are still armed gangs inside the city. We are able to drive them out,” he said.
But while rebels controlled most of Az-Zawiyah, Gaddafi forces shelled the city, wounding several civilians. Funerals were held for 23 others who rebels said were killed the previous day.
Meanwhile, a UN envoy has arrived in neighbouring Tunisia, where sources say rebels and representatives of the government are in talks on the island resort of Djerba. The envoy, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib said he would meet “Libyan personalities residing in Tunisia” to discuss the conflict.
Talks could signal the endgame of a battle that has drawn in the NATO alliance and emerged as one of the deadliest confrontations in the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world.
But spokesman Farhan Haq said the United Nations had “no concrete information” on any talks in Tunisia and that its Libya envoy, al-Khatib, was not taking part in any such talks.
The reports of rebel-government talks also sparked a swift denial from Gaddafi’s government. His spokesman dismissed reports of negotiations about the Libyan leader’s future as part of a “media war” against him.