Actually, it’s at least 30. It happened in Zawiyah, an oil city and the closest one to Tripoli that’s controlled by rebels; the unit responsible is allegedly the notorious Khamis Brigade, named after — and commanded by — Qaddafi’s own son. Qaddafi wants Zawiyah back to break the opposition’s momentum, give himself some breathing space territorially, and reclaim a bit of his petroleum lifeline. He tried to retake it a few days ago but that counteroffensive was repelled. This time the city’s rebel commander was killed, and Libyan state TV is now apparently reporting that Qaddafi’s goons are back in control. Hard to tell at the moment if that’s true, but so long as he’s able to airlift in mercenaries, it’s not far-fetched. Especially since he appears to have Tripoli mostly under control again too.
Two clips for you here. The second purports to be cell-phone footage of today’s attack on Zawiyah, but there’s no way to tell that either. It was uploaded this morning but Libya’s Internet supposedly went offline yesterday, so take it with a grain of salt. (It’s graphic in spots, needless to say, so please observe your official content warning.) The first clip comes from an interview CNN did last night with the new vice president of the rebels’ provisional governing council. Watch to the end and you’ll hear him call, flat out, for a no-fly zone to cut Qaddafi’s mercenary supply route. Which raises the question: Is there any “massacre threshold” the White House has in mind that’ll trigger a NFZ? Clearly we’re not going to intervene just to dislodge Qaddafi, but we’re also not going to sit by while he starts popping off sarin shells at protesters. At some point, at least theoretically, the he’s-gone-too-far line will be crossed. Where is that line? Is it tied to the body count? To the types of weapons used? Or is it tied to “optics”? I.e. if Al Jazeera cameras are on the scene when a truckful of mercenaries rolls up on a crowd and starts spraying bullets, with people dropping left and right, will the world’s revulsion force the White House to spring into action? Because … that’s basically what happened today, and not for the first time. The only missing component was the camera. So again, where’s the line?