TRIPOLI, Libya — Pressing to break a two-month siege, rebels in the port city of Misrata said they had captured the local airport and pushed Moammar Gadhafi's forces ever farther from the city's western outskirts.
The reported advances were the latest in a recent flurry of accounts of rebel victories, coinciding with intensified NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi's forces in several areas of Libya. In all, NATO said Wednesday, the alliance has carried out more than 2,400 airstrikes since March 31 as part of the effort to assist the rebels and pressure Gadhafi to end his 42-year authoritarian rule.
Even though some of the recent reports of ground combat are difficult to confirm, they seem to represent a major boost for the rebels' military prospects after weeks of stalemate on several fronts.
According to a rebel who identified himself as Abdel Salam, rebels were in total control of the airport in Misrata's southern outskirts after two days of fighting. He said rebels are also pushing west from Misrata, toward the nearby city of Zlitan, hoping to then advance farther toward Tripoli.
At least four airstrikes appeared to target central Tripoli overnight. Their crashing sound was clearly audible from the hotel where foreign journalists are staying in the Libyan capital.
Wailing ambulances were heard minutes after the last missile exploded, along with the thundering sound of military aircraft.
It wasn't immediately clear what the strikes hit. Reporters are not allowed to not leave their hotels without government minders.
The strikes came hours after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi made his first TV appearance since an April 30 NATO attack on his sprawling compound killed one of his sons. The brief TV appearance seemed designed to squelch the rumors that he had been hit by the bombing.
Libyan TV showed Gadhafi meeting tribal leaders, but did not record him speaking. To authenticate the scene, the camera zoomed in on the date on a TV monitor in the room, and it read Wednesday, May 11. It was apparently recorded at the hotel where foreign correspondents must reside in Tripoli. Gadhafi did not make himself available to them.
The last time Gadhafi had been seen in public was April 9.