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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 11, 2011 / 8 Adar II, 5771

Libyan rebels' ragtag army left in disarray

By David Zucchino






JewishWorldReview.com |

cJDABIYA, Libya — (MCT) Nabil Mustafa Kharraz rushed to the front without a weapon. He ended up in a grimy provincial hospital with rocket shrapnel in his brain and a bloodied bandage wrapped around his head like a turban.

"He's a brave boy," said his father, Mustafa Kharraz, standing at his son's bedside and holding a tube containing dark shards of metal a doctor had plucked from the 20-year-old's head. "I'm proud he did his duty for his country."

In his rumpled bed a day after fleeing a withering assault by government forces in the oil city of Ras Lanuf, Nabil promised his father he would fight again — though he still doesn't know how to fire a gun.

Armed only with intense devotion to the revolution in eastern Libya, the chemical engineering student epitomizes the madly courageous but wildly incompetent rebel force that has taken on canny strongman Moammar Gadhafi. Made up of students and clerks and accountants, the "people's army" has proved supremely vulnerable and, in some cases, helpless.

The idealistic protesters-turned-soldiers grew overconfident and inattentive after two swift triumphs. Then they retreated in chaos when Gadhafi unleashed his professional army and its punishing heavy weapons and warplanes.

That resurgent army is now pushing eastward relentlessly, scattering the outgunned rebels. All that stands between Gadhafi and rebel headquarters in Benghazi are disorganized volunteers and army defectors spread thinly along the coastal highway.

Not a single heavy-gun emplacement is dug in along the 140-mile desert highway from the rebels' new defensive line in Port Brega to Benghazi. And all that protects Port Brega, a strategic oil hub, are the same outdated weapons that proved so ineffective in Ras Lanuf.

At a rebel checkpoint about 25 miles east of Ras Lanuf late Saturday, fighters flung themselves into the desert each time a government warplane passed overhead. Gun trucks ferrying rebel reinforcements — many unarmed — sped west to the front, passing ambulances with blue lights flashing headed in the opposite direction.

It is an asymmetrical fight. The rebels can muster only ancient hand-cranked antiaircraft guns, heavy machine-guns, recoilless rifles, rockets, grenade launchers and assault rifles.

The pro-Gadhafi forces fight with what the military calls "stand-off" weapons. From a distance, they pummel the rebels with airstrikes, artillery, tanks and, according to rebel fighters and opposition leaders, from guns aboard ships in the Mediterranean Sea.

"I never saw them with my own eyes," Ibrahim Sharf, 35, whose left leg was shattered by a rocket barrage, said of Gadhafi's troops. His leg, clumsily wrapped in gauze that oozed blood, was held together by four metal pins.

"If they would only fight us man to man, we'd destroy them," Sharf said, grimacing in his hospital bed. He spotted an image of Gadhafi on a hospital TV and made a brushing motion, as if swatting a fly.

The rebels, who fight from private pickup trucks and cars spray-painted "People's Army of Libya," have only three or four days' cushion of gasoline supplies, said Khaled Ben Ali, a logistics official.


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For the first time Saturday, motorists waited in long lines outside gas stations on the coastal highway. Some stations ran dry. The fighting has closed many gasoline refineries, triggering a fuel shortage in the rebel-held east.

Just one week ago, the rebels were literally dancing in the streets of Bin Jawwad, a desert outpost west of Ras Lanuf they seized March 5 in what had seemed an inexorable march to Tripoli, the capital. But they have been driven back since, losing at least 60 miles of coastal highway.

Port Brega, 85 miles east of Ras Lanuf, is now in Gadhafi's sights. The dictator's son Seif Islam has vowed to reclaim the eastern half of Libya from rebels who have held it since late February.

The Tripoli regime seems confident after battlefield triumphs in the east and in rebellious Zawiya, 30 miles west of the capital. A government-owned cell phone company recently sent a taunting mass text message to subscribers in the east, including many rebel fighters:

"Be happy. We are coming to liberate you soon!"

There is little coherent rebel leadership. At military bases in Benghazi, self-described "colonels" in mismatched military uniforms smoke cigarettes in dilapidated offices, watching the war unfold on Al-Jazeera, the satellite news channel.

Special forces soldiers who defected from Gadhafi's eastern army are now providing badly needed leadership, said opposition spokesman Mustafa Gheriani. But even as army regulars try to instruct civilian volunteers, the soldiers themselves have little or no combat experience.

Likewise, the businessmen and lawyers directing the rebel national council know little of military affairs. They refer reporters to an array of ever-shifting military spokesmen, few of whom spend any time at the front.

All week, spokesmen promised that tanks would arrive soon to save the day in Ras Lanuf. But the only tank visible on the road from Benghazi to the front Saturday was an ancient, rusting Soviet model. Teenaged boys played on the turret.

The rebels haven't seized on their singular advantage: They are fast and nimble. Lightly armed Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan have bloodied U.S. forces for a decade, but the Libyan rebels haven't dispatched small teams to harass the enemy behind the lines.

Only since Friday have the rebels even dispersed gun trucks across the desert to escape airstrikes. But scores of fighters still congregate in clusters, providing prime targets.

At their westernmost secured checkpoint Saturday, fighters struggled to put on a brave front. Their bravado and enthusiasm remained intact, but there were tensions within the ranks. Fighters argued openly over tactics, and a few scuffles broke out.

For the first time the day before, rebels required written permission for journalists to drive to the front. Some rebels now prohibit photographs of gun emplacements — after posing and grinning for photos next to those same weapons all week.

The opposition leadership is begging Western powers for a no-fly zone to negate Gadhafi's air superiority. Officials have said they will try to buy heavy weapons on their own if Western nations don't step in.

Resentment toward the U.S. over its policy is growing.

"Where is America?" asked Issam Darebi, manning the main rebel checkpoint in Port Brega. "All they do is talk, talk, talk. They need to get rid of these planes killing Libyan people."

Many rebels at the western checkpoint said they would need better and heavier weapons to prevail. Others, repeating the same promises made in Ras Lanuf before retreating, swore they would make a final stand if Gadhafi's forces stormed Port Brega.

"We won't pull back," said Montassar Rahani, 23, a student wearing sneakers and sweat pants. "We'll die here first."

A gray-bearded rebel in a Toyota sedan tried to rally the fading rebels.

"We'll have heavier weapons, more training — soon, shabab," he shouted over a megaphone, addressing the young fighters. "But for now, organize yourselves!"

The fighters have begun writing rosters with the names of men in their vehicles. No one knows how many fighters there are.

As the rebels struggle to hold ground, the war creeps toward them. In the darkened halls of the Ajdabiya hospital, 45 miles east of Port Brega, Dr. Anis Bargty predicted more casualties.

"Yesterday the ambulance delivered just arms and legs," he said. "A terrible day, and there will be more."

In Bed 6 in the recovery ward, Tahar Ali, 38, a teacher, winced from the pain of rocket shrapnel that had punched ugly holes in his hip and thigh. It pained him, too, that whoever wounded him did so from a safe distance.

"I didn't get a chance to attack anybody," Ali complained.

It hardly mattered, for he did not have a gun. He had been issued a single grenade, which he clutched all the way to the hospital.

He laid it by his bedside until a friend took it for safekeeping. When his wounds heal, Ali vowed, he will retrieve the grenade and return to the front, even as it grinds east toward the hospital itself.

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© 2011, Los Angeles Times Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.