Fighting rages outside of Misrata (update: report that Gaddafi's son seeks terms)

At least 17 people are dead in the city of Misrata after Gaddafi's forces fired into the town that was "liberated" by the rebels and NATO air power a few weeks ago.


Rebel forces at a checkpoint near the western front line said at least seven of the dead were killed in fighting in the Dafniya area, where pro-Gadhafi forces pushed in with at least three tanks firing at rebel positions.

"It is horrible out there," said a rebel fighter as he sped by. "The revolutionaries are taking tank power in their chests."

The city was continuously bombarded Friday afternoon.

Misrata has borne the brunt of the fighting for the past two months. More than 1,000 people are believed to have been killed since early February, including 686 civilians who lived in the city.

Gadhafi's forces laid siege to Misrata and cut off all land access -- the only escape route is by sea. They retreated to the perimeters but are trying to regain control of the city, only about 130 miles east of Tripoli.

NATO has now named Gaddafi as a "legitimate military target despite insisting for months that he wasn't.

A U.N. resolution justifies the targeting of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, a senior NATO military official with operational knowledge of the Libya mission told CNN Thursday.

The resolution applies to Gadhafi because, as head of the military, he is part of the control and command structure and therefore a legitimate target, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official was not authorized to talk to the media.

Asked by CNN whether Gadhafi was being targeted, the NATO official declined to give a direct answer.

But NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu disputed the claim, saying the alliance was not specifically targeting Gadhafi.

Of course not. All those bombs and missiles striking Gaddafi's compound in recent days were supposed to hit other targets. It's all a big mistake. So sorry.

I'm sure this rude behavior will stop once Euro-leftists and American anti-war protestors pour into the streets to demonstrate against this barbaric escalation. Oh, wait...

I wonder what the Vegas line is on combat troops being sent to Libya to oust Gaddafi? I say by the end of summer, but it might be before that. Meanwhile, an operation that was supposed to last a few weeks has turned into a nightmare of a tar baby that the US and Europe desperately wanted to avoid but which now appears to have captured them.

Update from James G. Wiles:

Based on reports from Bloomberg and the Guardian, the Irish Times reports that Gadaffi's son Saif al-Islam has approached rebels to negotiate an exit from power for his father over the last few days, an aide to National Transitional Council leader Mahmoud Jebril has said. The credibility of source unknown...and, of course, we've seen this before.

A lot of facts in the report, though, with quotes. Names too... And Saif is the semi-sane one.

Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy's son, Saif al-Islam, has approached rebels to negotiate an exit from power for his father over the last few days, an aide to National Transitional Council leader Mahmoud Jebril has said.

We are talking now of the last stage of this operation, Mohamed Al Akari told Bloomberg Television in Abu Dhabi. "Gadafy won't be allowed to remain in Libya even though he is dreaming of staying in the country," Mr Al Akari said.

South Africa and Senegal were among the countries that might offer him a safe haven, he added.

Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd said in Abu Dhabi, where the 22-member Libya Contact Group was meeting, that Gadafy had sent out "feelers" to negotiate an end to the conflict in a sign of rising "despair".


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