Overwhelmed Rebel Fighters Flee From Eastern Libyan City

by
aliciawesly2
Tripoli, Libya -- Airstrikes killed four people in eastern Libya on Thursday, an opposition general said, and rebel fighters and civilians made a wild, panicky retreat from a major city.

Aircraft fired missiles on a rebel formation between al-Brega and Ajdabiya on the eastern Libyan battlefront, witnesses told CNN Thursday, an act that left the opposition wondering whether NATO aircraft conducted mistaken airstrikes on the forces they are trying to protect.

It's unclear whether Libyan aircraft or NATO fired the missiles, but there haven't been Libyan air force planes in the skies for some time because NATO aircraft have established a no-fly zone.

NATO said it's looking into the strikes but didn't say who carried it out. In a statement, it said that hostilities between al-Brega and Ajdabiya have "been fierce for several days. The situation is unclear and fluid with mechanized weapons traveling in all directions."

"What remains clear is that NATO will continue to uphold the U.N. mandate and strike forces that can potentially cause harm to the civilian population of Libya," NATO said.

Gen. Abdul Fattah Yunis, commander of rebel forces, told reporters of the "unfortunate setback."

The planes fired on 20 rebel tanks near al-Brega Thursday morning, Yunis said. Gadhafi's troops moved forward after the attack, causing the opposition to pull back. Several of the tanks were destroyed.

The general said he wanted some answers from NATO on whether it or Gadhafi planes made the strike. If the latter, Yunis said, NATO should have prevented that by enforcing the no-fly zone.

He added that the rebels had notified NATO of the tank movement and of their presence.

"There is no tension between us and NATO; this is a war situation and we understand that mistakes are made," Yunis said.
CNN