The Libyan government took journalists early Tuesday to a hospital in central Tripoli that was next door to an intelligence building that was hit by the attacks.
NATO officials insisted that all the strikes — including the ones in Tripoli — were aimed at military targets and were in line with U.N. mandates limiting military action to protecting civilians.
“What we can do is to protect civilians by taking out major parts of the Gaddafi war machine,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution and NPR during a visit to Atlanta. “So, we target critical military capabilities, like tanks and armored vehicles, rocket launchers, ammunition depots, command-and-control centers, and other facilities that can be used to attack the civilian population.”
NATO confirmed Tuesday that Predator drones had teamed up with British fighter jets in an attack earlier in the week on a Misurata building that was being used by Gaddafi forces to direct artillery and rocket fire. One of the unmanned planes conducted surveillance of the building and helped guide a pair of Royal Air Force Tornados to the site. The jets fired missiles that knocked out the building’s upper floors, where the loyalists’ spotters were operating, an alliance spokesman said.
Still, residents said conditions in Misurata, the closest rebel outpost to the capital, remain miserable.
“You still can see a queue of people looking for food, looking for bread. We’ve run out of our medication, and you cannot find vegetables anywhere,” said Aiman, a doctor at the main hospital in Misurata, who asked that only his first name be used because he was concerned about his safety. “Before we think about Tripoli, we have to secure Misurata.”
Rebels fighting in eastern Libya have been bogged down for weeks, unable to capture the city of Brega, where there is a major oil terminal. Fighters in the frontline city of Ajdabiya said that in order to take Brega, the rebel army needs more weapons.
“We ask the governments of all the Western countries to help us. We ask for more weapons for fighting at the front line,” said a commander at Ajdabiya’s western entrance, Abduljawad al-Badeen.
But Badeen said the rebels had recently procured arms from military units that had defected and from abandoned army depots in eastern Libya, giving them access to antitank missiles, rocket launchers and machine guns. “Before, we were fighting with different weapons. Gaddafi had much more,” he explained. “But now we are much more evenly matched.”
Warrick reported from Washington. Special correspondent Portia Walker in Benghazi, Libya, and correspondent Simon Denyer in New Delhi contributed to this report.