Muammar Qaddafi’s soldiers have fled the Western allies’ bombing offensive, allowing rebels to re-take the oil port of Benghazi and fight for control of Qaddafi’s home town of Sirte.

The rebels are advancing westwards towards Tripoli as they take the advantage in the see-saw war, which a month ago came close to strangling Qaddafi’s forces until he unleashed a merciless aerial attack that pulverized the rebels and threatened to bury the revolution.

The “no-fly” zone implemented under the cover of a United Nations Security Council resolution 10 days ago grounded Qaddafi’s planes and bombed his army’s tank positions, allowing the rebels to take the upper hand.

Rebels in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city and a seven-hour drive from Sirte, celebrated a report of the takeover of the luxurious city, but their celebration is premature. There has been no official confirmation of Qaddafi’s loss of control over his hometown, and most reports indicate that Qaddafi will unleash all his might to defend his home town, where he has local support.

Foreign media have reported seeing dozens of burned-out army tanks and trucks, and rebels believe the Western offensive, now under the lead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), has weakened the morale as well as the capability of Qaddafi’s dwindling supporters.

Oil has become a key element in the war, with the rebels controlling oil installations in several coastal towns. Qaddafi continues to accuse the West of trying to take over the country’s oil resources.

The “no-fly” zone was officially imposed to “protect civilians,” but the fierce bombing of Qaddafi’s forces have led to criticism from some quarters that the offensive is a camouflage for helping the rebels. 

U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver an address on Monday night on the situation in Libya. He has won bi-partisan support for what some see as a belated move to defend rebels, who were subject to a massacre by Qaddafi’s soldiers at the  beginning of the uprising last month. Other critics fear the United States will become embroiled in another war in a foreign country.

Despite the rebel’s regaining control of most of Libya, senior American officials warn that Qaddafi’s demise is not certain and that the rebels may have to settle for a negotiated compromise. The conflict “eventually is going to have to be settled by the Libyans themselves,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press program. “Perhaps the U.N. can mediate.”

He added, “One should not underestimate the possibility of the regime itself cracking.”