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NATO BOMBS TRIPOLI COMMAND SITE

Libyan rebels report gains after airstrikes hit regime targets near the besieged city of Misrata.

TRIPOLI, Libya - In a one-two punch against Moammar Gadhafi's forces, NATO warplanes struck a command center in the capital, Tripoli, on Tuesday after pounding regime targets around the besieged port of Misrata. Rebels hoped the stepped-up attacks could help extend some of their biggest advances to date, including a major outward push from Misrata.

The opposition also said it made gains along a long-deadlocked front near the eastern town of Ajdabiya.

The rebels' military spokesman, Col. Ahmed Bani, said opposition forces had pushed Gadhafi's troops out of rocket range on the west side of Misrata and dislodged them from the airport after two days of battles, raising the prospect that the siege could be broken.

Bani said rebels from Misrata and Zlitan, 35 miles west, had joined to fight in close-range combat that rendered the regime forces' long-range rockets useless. Bani said Gadhafi's brigades were pushed about 10 miles back from Misrata's airport.

"The picture is looking good for us," he said.

In another boost to the opposition, the U.S. State Department said the first load of non-lethal American military aid for the rebels landed Tuesday at the port in their headquarters city, Benghazi.

Spokesman Mark Toner said the shipment consisted of more than 10,000 meals, with further shipments of medical supplies, boots and protective gear to arrive shortly. The delivery came ahead of planned meetings in Washington this week between U.S. officials and the head of the opposition Transitional National Council.

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