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NATO to intensify airstrikes over Libya

NATO aircraft plan to fly 198 sorties over Libya on Wednesday, which would be the highest for a single day since NATO assumed full command of operations on March 31, the alliance's spokeswoman said.

Oana Lungescu said in a statement that NATO jets plan to conduct 198 sorties, but didn't specify how many of them would be airstrikes against ground targets in Libya.

The "operational tempo has increased" and protecting civilians in Misrata, a rebel-held city near Libyan capital Tripoli, is NATO's first priority, she said.

NATO jets conducted 155 sorties on Tuesday, including 66 strike sorties.

Libyan rebel leaders have lashed out at NATO for failing to provide sufficient air support and stop the siege of Misrata by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

NATO military officials said that Gaddafi's forces had changed their tactics to avoid airstrikes by hiding tanks and heavy weapons in urban areas, even using human shields to protect them.

In addition, as the United States withdrew their aircraft from attacking on ground targets on Monday, the alliance faces shortage of strike capacity, even Britain has pledged four additional Tornado jets.

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