Britain is sending up to 20 military advisers to help Libya's rebel force break a military stalemate with Moammar Gadhafi's army, even as NATO acknowledges that airstrikes alone cannot stop the daily shelling of the besieged opposition-held city of Misrata.
Gadhafi's troops have been pounding Misrata indiscriminately with mortars and rockets, a NATO general said Tuesday, and residents reported more explosions and firefights in Libya's third-largest city. Hospitals are overflowing and 120 patients need to be evacuated from the city that has been under siege for nearly two months, the World Health Organization said.
The plight of Misrata's civilians and the battlefield deadlock are raising new questions about the international community's strategy in Libya. The leaders of the United States, Britain and France have said Gadhafi must go, but seem unwilling to commit to a more forceful military campaign. NATO's mandate is restricted to protecting civilians.
The rebels seized control of most of eastern Libya shortly after the uprising began in February, while Gadhafi is entrenched in the west, but the front line hasn't changed dramatically since then.
"I am very optimistic. We will win," Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, said on state television.
Frustration over the stalemate has spurred talk in the West of new tactics, including dispatching military personnel to Libya.
Britain took the lead Tuesday, saying it is sending up to 20 senior soldiers who will help organize the rebels, many of whom have had little military training or battle experience. However, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain would not arm the opposition or assist in military operations.