Rebels Say They Captured Misrata Airport

Libyan rebels captured the airport in the besieged city of Misrata on Wednesday, a rebel spokesman in Benghazi said.

Shamsiddin Abdulmolah of the Transitional National Council said the airport, located in the southern region of the war-torn city, fell to "revolutionaries" after opposition fighters nearby in Zlaitin were able to join their counterparts in Misrata.

The capture of the location is key for the rebels fighting the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi since it would provide important access for humanitarian aid.

Two months of fighting and the ongoing shelling of the Misrata port have prevented most aid ships from docking there, leaving the city "at the forefront" of U.N. humanitarian concerns, a top U.N. official told the Security Council this week.

NATO warplanes and missiles have been pounding Gadhafi's forces since March as Gadhafi's troops try to quash a nearly three-month-old revolt against his regime, and the ferocity of the warfare in Misrata symbolizes the animosity between the pro- and anti-Gadhafi forces.

Abdulmolah said an unknown number of casualties occurred in the fighting. He also reported that the oil-rich town of Jakharrah fell overnight to opposition forces and that Gadhafi's forces are surrounded in the oasis area towns of Awjilah and Jalu.

The NATO mission is intended to enforce a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for the protection of civilians. U.S. President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will meet at the White House on Friday to discuss the alliance's role, the White House said on Wednesday.