Framework

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Rebel fighters check out a crater left by a missile fired by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel antiaircraft artillery is seen through a gun sight at a checkpoint.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel fighter carries ammunition to an antiaircraft gun.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters look over a pickup truck that was badly damaged by a missile fired by pro-regime forces from a plane. Six family members, all noncombatants, were injured.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters run for cover as a missile explodes near a checkpoint. The explosion badly damaged a pickup truck carrying a family of six, all of whom were transported to a hospital.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel fighter fires an antiaircraft gun.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebels run for cover as a missile explodes near a checkpoint.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel fighter assembles a belt of ammunition at a checkpoint.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters atop an armored vehicle roll toward Ras Lanuf.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A Libyan rebel waves his handgun as he meets with fellow fighters at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the key oil port of Ras Lanuf. Opposition forces ceded ground to Moammar Kadafi's advancing forces as the United States came under increasing pressure to arm the opposition and the United Nations appointed a special humanitarian envoy.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP / Getty Images

Libyan rebel fighters flash the victory sign as they look at an air force fighter jet flying overhead after dropping a bomb near a checkpoint on the outskirts of the oil town of Ras Lanuf.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: MARCO LONGARI / AFP / Getty Images

Rebel fighters run for cover during an air strike in Ras Lanuf. Libya's army fought rebels for control of Ras Lanuf on Monday and a rebel official said Moammar Kadafi could attack oilfields like a "wounded wolf" if the West did not stop him with air strikes.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: GORAN TOMASEVIC / Reuters

Injured rebel fighters seek protection during an air strike in Ras Lanuf. Major Libyan oil ports Ras Lanuf and Brega in the east of the country are closed as violence in the area has hampered operations at the terminals, shipping sources said on Monday.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: GORAN TOMASEVIC / Reuters

A rebel fighter fires his rifle at a military aircraft loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi at a checkpoint in Ras Lanuf.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: GORAN TOMASEVIC / Reuters

A mourner in Benghazi holds an AK-47 rifle during a funeral for rebels killed in clashes with forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi in Bin Jawwad.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: SUHAIB SALEM / Reuters

Anti-Kadafi rebels examine a crater left by an air strike by Libyan warplanes near a checkpoint in the oil town of Ras Lanouf in eastern Libya. There were no casualties in the Monday morning attack.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hussein Malla / Associated Press

A rebel stands on a vehicle holding several RPGs at an advance checkpoint between the oil town of Ras Lanouf and the desert outpost of Bin Jawwad.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hussein Malla / Associated Press

A Libyan rebel checks his weapon while guarding petroleum facilities in Ras Lanuf. Opposition forces remained in control of the strategic town Monday after a day of fighting with army troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John Moore / Getty Images

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Times photographer Luis Sinco reports from the Libyan port city of Ras Lanuf.

I was feeling frustrated about missing the action yesterday in Bin Jawwad when the party finally came to me.

Standing by our car about 100 yards from a checkpoint on the edge of Ras Lanuf, I heard only a screaming jet overhead when the missile struck, sending up a thick mushroom cloud of black smoke and brown earth.

For a moment, time stood still. Then the ground trembled and a shock wave washed over me.

Down the road confusion reigned as rebel fighters scrambled for cover, running in all directions — some jumping into vehicles and speeding eastward down the main highway.

Within seconds, the thump and crackle of antiaircraft artillery and small-arms fire filled the air, drowning out the voices of dozens of men shouting at the top of their lungs, “God is great!”

When the dust settled, Times reporter David Zucchino and I drove down the road and saw two large craters on the dirt shoulder. Already, a rebel fighter stood beside the holes waving the red, black and green flag of the Libyan revolution.

Across the way stood a crumpled, white pickup truck, its windows shattered and its doors and seats splattered with blood. The injured had already been taken away, but we quickly learned that a family of six had been inside. The victims included a man and his wife, their three children and grandmother. I could only imagine their terror and pain.

A large crowd of rebels surrounded the vehicle, some pulling debris from inside, including a pair of sneakers, flip-flops, two red sandals and pieces of jagged shrapnel the size of shoeboxes.

“This is what Kadafi does to women and children!” shouted one rebel fighter in English. “Look! See!”

It appeared that the family — like dozens of others — was fleeing the fighting that has raged virtually nonstop between Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawwad for the last two days. Several rebels then fired their weapons into the air, emptying clips of 30 rounds or more in a deafening clatter. I felt like screaming at them to stop.

All day long, at a checkpoint about a mile up the road, hundreds of rebels had gathered in a large group — dozing in their vehicles, eating, assembling weapons, stocking up on ammunition, stopping traffic and generally wasting time and bullets by randomly firing their weapons at nothing.

For two weeks now, the pilots of Moammar Kadafi’s air force have managed to defect to Malta, abort missions or miss their targets completely. Today, they hit six innocent and unarmed noncombatants driving away from the violence.

War is just crazy like that.

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