Rebels credited coalition airstrikes with helping them regain ground, noting that they had encountered little resistance as they headed west over the weekend. But they said Monday that they need more airstrikes to advance further.
On Monday, rebel fighters moved about 70 miles west from the coastal oil terminal and town of Ras Lanouf to just beyond the small town of Bin Jawad, where their push was halted by government fire along the exposed desert highway and the heavily mined entrance to Sirte.
Sirte, which houses a significant air and military base, is crucial both for its strategic position and its symbolic value. Over the years, Gadhafi has made it effectively Libya's second capital, building up what had been a quiet agricultural community into a city of 150,000 with lavish conference halls where Arab and African summits were held.