Framework

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A tank abandoned by pro-Kadafi forces is blown up by rebels as they retreat.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel fighter throws up his arms in frustration as the rebels' ragtag army retreats from the oil town, which fell to rapidly advancing Kadafi loyalists.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A fighter watches from the roadside as fellow rebels retreat. Pro-Kadafi forces had pushed them back more than 200 miles in two days.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters retreat with their weaponry.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters chant "God is great!" in an attempt to rally sagging morale on the long retreat from Bin Jawwad, west of Port Brega.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters evacuate a wounded comrade from the hospital in Ajdabiya, which was reportedly under assault by pro-Kadafi forces late Wednesday.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters assist a disabled man to flee as Kadafi loyalists closed in on Ajdabiya.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Civilians flee as pro-Kadafi forces advanced on Ajdabiya.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters take up positions around Bin Jawwad, where they engaged forces loyal to Moammar Kadafi in an intense fight before retreating by late afternoon.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A fighter's weapon is decorated with the tricolor flag adopted by the Libyan rebels.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters under attack by government forces are in retreat.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Libyan rebel fighters are on the run as government forces retake territory.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A Libyan rebel fighter cools off after retreating from Bin Jawwad.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Libyan rebel fighters collect the last remaining drops of gasoline from the tanks of a filling station.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A fighter looks back toward Bin Jawwad as he joins a rebel exodus.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Retreating rebel fighters pack a pickup leaving Bin Jawwad.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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Rebels pushed back to Benghazi, Libya

By Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times

The rebels began retreating more than 24 hours ago and didn’t stop until they reached Benghazi today, March 30, and disappeared into the sprawling urban landscape.

The opposition reportedly has a nominal force on the eastern edge of Ajdabiya to confront hard-charging Kadafi loyalist forces to which they have yielded more than 200 miles of territory since Monday.

I was jarred out of slumber around 3:00 a.m. that day by the incessant rattle and thump of small arms and anti-artillery fire and dozens of motorists repeatedly driving by the hotel and honking their horns. I wondered what was happening as the noise continued unabated until sunrise.

I flipped on the morning news and heard that Surt, the hometown of Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi, had “fallen” to the rebels. Well, not quite. I later learned that the rebels had actually advanced no closer than within 50 miles of the city’s eastern limits.

The celebration was short-lived as scores of men from Benghazi drove toward Surt only to discover that Kadafi loyalist forces were putting up a spirited fight near the town of Bin Jawwad.

Within hours that stiff resistance morphed into a rout as Kadafi’s army steamrollered more than 200 miles east to find themselves again on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, the last sizable city before the opposition capital of Benghazi.

Late today, I traveled from Port Brega to Benghazi and there is virtually no rebel presence along the entire stretch. Kadafi may soon be rolling into Benghazi again — and the opposition’s long-term strategy seems to be to rely heavily on warplanes from France, Britain and the United States.

It’s hard to make any sense of it at all.

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