(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Air raids targeting the Libyan city of Sirte Sunday night aided rebels advancing towards the city. It was also confirmed that NATO will now be assuming the entire mission in the war-torn country, including all air strikes and the civilian protection mission.
Sirte, which is Moammar Gadhafi's hometown, lies halfway between the rebel-held east and the government-controlled west. Taking the city is a major coup for the rebels, who are quickly advancing toward the capitol city of Tripoli.
Earlier Sunday, rebels regained two key oil complexes along Libya's coastal highway. Their westward march towards Sirte mirrors their earlier advancement towards the capitol, but this week they had powerful air forces bombarding Gadhafi's military and clearing a path.
Shortly after nightfall, air raids on both Tripoli and Sirte began, Libyan state television confirmed. Fighting began in the contested city of Misrata -- which lies between Sirte and Tripoli -- as residents reported that pro-Gadhafi forces were firing on residential areas.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed that NATO will assume command of all aerial operations in Libya, taking over from the U.S.-led force.
According to a senior Obama administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity, NATO will now assume the entire mission of implementing U.N. Security Council resolution 1973, which demands an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians.
This fulfills President Obama's promise to take the leading edge with America's unique capabilities, then quickly turn over authority to NATO, the official said.
More countries should be contributing assets to the operation, the official said, adding that not every country will have to take part in every aspect of the mission. While some may contribute to enforcing the arms embargo or the no-fly zone only, others may participate in bombings to protect civilians.
NATO will lead all of it, the official confirmed, stressing that the mission is to strike at anyone who targets civilians, not to support the Libyan rebels. NATO commanders will have the authority to pick bombing targets and won't have to seek permission from a political body first, the official noted.
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