Aljazeera Arabic is reporting directly from Zawiya (to the west of Tripoli along the Mediterranean), where Free Libya forces have liberated some 80 percent of the city, all but the eastern areas and the refinery. People in most of Zawiya look pretty happy about the end of their ordeal. Stories are coming out about arbitrary arrests, torture, and disappearances during the period since March that Qaddafi’s forces ruled the city with tank shells and secret police. Qaddafi brigades have invaded a hospital in the east and taken medical personel hostage, placing snipers on the roof. Another sniper at the Martyrs’ Square has been wreaking havoc, and killed a woman in her living room. There had also been shelling of the city by Grad missiles launched from trucks, but the Aljazeera television crew seemed to move around without fear on Tuesday. NATO war planes hit positions of Qaddafi brigades to the east of Zawiya Tuesday affording protection to the city from indiscriminate bombardment.
The rebels say that they have complete control of Gharyan (Garyan) to the south of Tripoli, which sits astride a major smuggling route from Algeria.
The Voice of Free Libya broadcasting from Misrata alleged Tuesday that Qaddafi brigades in Surman have defected to the Free Libya forces who have taken most of the city, according to the Open Source Center.
It also reports that 5 officers in Tripoli who attempted to defect were arrested by Qaddafi security men and have been executed. It is also claimed that Qaddafi’s forces are refusing to let people freely leave the capital.
The Transitional National Council in Benghazi affirmed Tuesday that it would step down after 6-8 months from the time Qaddafi is overthrown, once elections to a national parliament are held. They also said that a new constitution would be drafted over two years and put to a national referendum. The Arab Spring revolutions that have succeeded, in Egypt and Tunisia, have both faced the problem that it is impossible to organize credible parliamentary elections in less than 6 months or so, especially in countries unused to choosing freely among political parties (in Libya the parties would all have to be created from whole cloth). The period of rule by a transitional government is itself an uncomfortable era, since that government has limited legitimacy and typicallly is staffed at least in part by less objectionable members of the old regime. It is a problem that can provoke further demonstrations, but seems likely to be resolved in large part by parliamentary elections (scheduled for October in Tunisia, November in Egypt).
Chris Stephens gives us a searching and meditative piece on what the war has meant to people in Misrata, among the worst-hit by the indiscriminate fire and vicious repression of the Qaddafi regime. The piece explains why the Misrata fighters were so much better than those in the East– they fought in knowledge that there was no escape for them, and only the sea was to their backs. As Stephens notes, the Free Libya capture of Tawarga has silenced Qaddafi’s long-distance shelling of the city, so that people can even think about going to the beach for the first time in months.