Libya rebels are amassing to the east and west of Sirte, and have given Qaddafi forces in the strategic city until Saturday to surrender.
Al Nawfiliya, Libya
Rebel forces are determined to put an end to the fighting by taking Sirte – Mr. Qaddafi's coastal hometown – and Sabha in the south. After six months of fighting, they feel the end is near.
“It is this close,” says rebel fighter Ahmed Faitouri, putting his thumb and forefinger together as he stood at the rebels' last position on the approach to Sirte from the east, about 80 miles away. He wore a T-shirt that said “Camouflage classic” and carried a Kalashnikov.
Victory in Sirte is crucial because it would unite rebel-held territory from Tripoli in the west to the eastern city of Benghazi, giving the rebels uninterrupted control of the country's long coastal area and its many oil facilities.
Taking Sirte would also pose a key test of rebels' ability to persuade Qaddafi loyalists to admit that a 42-year era of dictatorial rule is over, lay down their arms, and integrate themselves in the new Libya.
Rebels are approaching Sirte from both the east and west, but say they will give the city until the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr to surrender. If residents and fighters do not lay down arms by Saturday, the rebels say they will take Sirte by force.
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