Libya's ragtag revolutionary army

As a civil war continues to unfold in Libya, rebel forces near Ras Lanouf are trying to hold their ground and avoid deadly airstrikes by Libyan warplanes. 

The rebels are outgunned by Muammar Qaddafi's air power and tanks, but they are not going away and hold valuable territory in the east of Libya.

But the rebel forces are facing an uphill battle. They are disorganized and mostly untrained fighters, without a clear chain of command or military discipline.

David Zucchino, reporting from Las Lanuf for the Los Angeles Times, wrote:

"If the rebels don't act like soldiers, it's because they aren't. They're students, engineers, house painters, deliverymen and accountants. Euphoric over the street uprisings against Kadafi's 41-year rule last month, they joined a brand-new revolutionary army.

"But in this army, nobody wears a helmet. Nobody salutes. Nobody issues orders. Every speeding gun truck and overloaded sedan is actually a little army unto itself. 

"At one point Saturday, the rebels were poised in Bin Jawwad to attack the coastal city of Surt, home to thousands of heavily armed fighters loyal to Kadafi. But Kadafi unleashed a withering air and land assault Sunday that continued the next day with booming airstrikes near the Ras Lanuf oil complex."

After fighting for days in Zawiyah, 30 miles west of Tripoli, Qaddafi's forces appear to have pushed out the rebels from the city. Nonetheless, the rebels still hold Benghazi and valuable oil depots. 

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Rebels are hoping for a no-fly zone to prevent the Libyan air force from bombing their positions. But the odds of that happing are not strong at this point.

"NATO Defense Ministers are expected to take it up on Thursday, but the assumption is that even if NATO approves a no-fly zone, it would still require a U.N. resolution. Brits and French are working on one but Russia and China are still roadblocks to approval," said David Martin, CBS News national security correspondent.

Reporting from Tripoli, CBS News correspondentMark Phillips summed up the Libyan situation: "This uprising has reached its most dangerous point so far. The opposition has exposed itself, and not just in Zawiyah, Misuratah Ras Lanuf and Benghazi. It'?s come out on the streets of Tripoli as well, to be tear-gassed and shot at. Either it grows or it gets destroyed by the still formidable forces of the regime. And it?'s calling out for help.

  • Dan Farber On Twitter»

    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of CBSNews.com, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.

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