Libyan rebels push towards Tripoli on two fronts

AL-QAWALISH, Libya, (Reuters) – Rebel fighters seized   A village south of the Libyan capital and another group  advanced towards Tripoli from the east yesterday in the  biggest push in weeks towards Muammar Gaddafi’s main stronghold.
Rebels firing their rifles into the air in celebration  poured into the village of Al-Qawalish, 100 km (60 miles)  southwest of Tripoli, after a six-hour battle with pro-Gaddafi  forces who had been holding the town.

Rushing through an abandoned checkpoint where government  troops had left tents and half-eaten bread in their rush to get  away, the rebels ripped down pro-Gaddafi flags.

Farther north, rebels pushed westward from the city of  Misrata to within 13 km of the centre of the town of Zlitan,  where large numbers of pro-Gaddafi forces are based.

But they came under artillery fire. Doctors at the al-Hekma  hospital in Misrata said 14 fighters had been killed on  Wednesday and about 50 were injured.
The advances came amid reports that Gaddafi — under  pressure from a five-month uprising against his rule, sanctions  and a NATO bombing campaign — was seeking a deal under which he  would step down.

His government has denied any such negotiations are  underway, and NATO’s chief said he had no confirmation that  Gaddafi was looking for a deal to relinquish power.

A Libyan official told Reuters on Wednesday there were signs  a solution to the conflict could be found by the start of  August, though he did not say what that solution might involve.

In the rebel-held cities of Benghazi and Misrata ,   thousands demonstrated against Gadaffi, waving European and  rebel flags and calling for the end of his four-decade  rule.

The rebel advances followed weeks of largely static  fighting. Heavily armed Gaddafi forces still lie between the  rebels and Tripoli, and previous rebel advances have either  bogged down or quickly turned into retreats.

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