ZWITINA, Libya — The international military intervention in Libya is likely to last "a while," a top French official said Monday, echoing Moammar Gadhafi's warning of a long war ahead as rebels, energized by the strikes on their opponents, said they were fighting to reclaim a city under siege from the Libyan leader's forces.
Burned-out tanks and personnel carriers littered the main desert road leading southwest from Benghazi, the rebel's capital in the east of the country — the remains of a pro-Gadhafi force that had been besieging the city until it was pounded by international strikes the past two nights.
Rebel fighters in Benghazi had now pushed down that highway to the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, which pro-Gadhafi forces have surrounded and been pounding with artillery and strikes since last week. The rebels swept into the nearby oil port of Zwitina, just northeast of the city, which was also the scene of heavy fighting last week — though now had been abandoned by regime forces. There, a power station hit by shelling on Thursday was still burning, its blackened fuel tank crumpled, with flames and black smoke pouring out.
Oil prices held above $102 a barrel after the second night of allied strikes in the OPEC nation raised fears of prolonged fighting that has already slowed Libyan oil production to a trickle.
Henri Guaino, a top adviser to the French president, said two nights of bombing runs and missile attacks had hobbled Libya's air defenses, stalled Gadhafi's troops and all but ended attacks on civilians. A cruise missile late Sunday blasted Gadhafi's residential compound near his iconic tent, and fighter jets destroyed a line of tanks moving on the rebel capital.
It was not known where Gadhafi was when the missile hit Sunday, but it seemed to show that he is not safe.