As forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and Libyan rebels continue to wage war in the sands of Libya, today marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Siege of Tobruk a 240-day affair in the same desert that cost the lives of thousands of Allied and Axis soldiers during the early days of World War II.

German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel, for one, was unimpressed by the Libyan landscape: “Rivers of blood were poured out over the miserable strips of land which in normal times, not even the poorest Arab would have bothered his head about,” he wrote (quoted in “Masters of Battle” by Terry Brighton).

Today, tank and artillery fire are booming over the sun-scorched landscape once again, with the graves of the dead from World War II a reminder of past struggles against oppression.

Towns and cities like Tobruk, Brega, Ajdabiyah and Benghazi, fought over by the Axis army and British and Commonwealth forces, have become familiar again as Libyan rebel forces clash up and down the coastal highway against Gaddafi’s troops in a bid to end his autocratic rule.

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