TRIPOLI, Libya The West moved to send its first concrete aid to Libya's rebellion in the east of the country, hoping to give it the momentum to oust the Libyan leader. But the Libyan leader's regime clamped down in its stronghold in the capital, quashing an attempt Monday to hold new protests as residents reported skyrocketing food prices from the crisis.
The two sides in Libya's crisis appeared entrenched in their positions, and the direction the uprising takes next could depend on which can hold out longest. Gadhafi's opponents, including mutinous army units, hold nearly the entire eastern half of the country, much of the oil infrastructure and some cities in the West. Gadhafi is dug in in Tripoli and nearby cities, backed by security forces and militiamen who are generally better armed than the military.
In the two opposition-held cities closest to Tripoli Zawiya and Misrata rebel forces were locked into standoffs with Gadhafi loyalists.
In Zawiya, some 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli, residents said they were anticipating a possible attack by pro-regime troops to try to retake the city. "Our people are waiting for them to come and, God willing, we will defeat them," said on resident who only wanted to be quoted by his first name, Alaa.
In Misrata, Libya's third largest city 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of Tripoli, skirmishes took place overnight between rebel forces controlling the city and troops loyal to Gadhafi, according to residents. Each side controls part of a sprawling air base on the outskirts of the city, and neither was able to make any gains in the latest sporadic fighting, they said.
Gadhafi opponents have moved to consolidate their hold in the east, centered on Benghazi Libya's second largest city, where the uprising began. Politicians there on Sunday set up their first leadership council to manage day-to-day affairs, taking a step toward forming what could be an alternative to Gadhafi's regime.
The opposition is backed by numerous units of the military in the east that joined the uprising, and they hold several bases and Benghazi's airport. But so far, the units do not appear to have melded into a unified fighting force. Gadhafi long kept the military weak, fearing a challenge to his rule, so many units are plagued by shortages of supplies and ammunition.
In the capital, several hundred protesters started a march in the eastern district of Tajoura, which has been the scene of frequent clashes. After the burial of a person killed in gunfire last week, mourners began to march down a main street, chanting against the Libyan leader and waving the flag of Libya's pre-Gadhafi monarchy, which has become a symbol of the uprising, a witness said.