Image: Egypt constitutional changes referendum in Cairo
Amel Pain  /  EPA
An Egyptian voter smiles while proudly showing his ink marked finger after casting his vote for the referendum on constitutional changes at a polling station in Cairo, Egypt, March 19.
By Richard Engel Chief foreign correspondent
NBC News and msnbc.com
ANALYSIS

The Middle East has seen a blur of activity this year. It’s hard to keep track of all that’s happened:

But the blur is starting to come into focus. Signs of what these changes could mean are beginning to emerge for the future of this critical region, dubbed “the Middle East” because it was closer to colonially minded Europeans than “the Far East” in Asia.

Not surprisingly, Egypt, the very site where Pharaonic priests believed Creation itself began, is the epicenter of the region’s transformation today.

The clues to what ultimately may happen are in what may look like small policy changes. 

Egypt’s interim foreign minister Nabil el-Araby announced that one of the first steps of the post-Mubarak Egyptian government will be to end its unofficial, but very real blockade of the Gaza Strip. Egypt said it will open the border to Gaza at Rafah. It could seem that the opening of a single border crossing is a minor change, hardly worth noticing. In fact, it is a tear in the status quo. 

Pressure on Israel over Gaza blockade
Egypt will open its border with Gaza, but certainly does not want the Palestinians living there to move into Egypt. Egypt has more people living on the banks of the Nile than it can handle now. It’s not an open door policy. Egypt doesn’t want immigrants. Instead by opening Gaza, Egypt hopes to rid itself of a moral dilemma, specifically the accusation that Cairo colludes with Israel to enforce a blockade on the one and a half million people of Gaza. 

Geography explains the situation best, as it almost always does. 

The Gaza Strip has only two land borders. One arches from the north, curling around the east to form Gaza’s boundary with Israel. This border is nearly impossible for Palestinians to cross.  Palestinians from Gaza are not allowed, except under very rare exceptions, to enter Israel. 

Gaza’s other border is with Egypt. It is also mostly closed, although Palestinians have tunneled under it to bring in supplies and weapons. Many Egyptians have felt guilty and hypocritical about keeping their border sealed. Egyptians often complain that Israel keeps Gazans penned in, even while their government was doing the same thing. It was an especially sensitive issue during the war between Israel and Hamas at the end of the 2008. 

During the three-week conflict, Israel pounded Gaza with tanks. It invaded with troops.  Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, triggered the invasion by firing rockets deep into Israel.  Israel said the war was designed to stop the rockets; a justification which most of the international community agreed was legitimate. No country could accept rockets flying over its border. Israel’s response to the rockets attacks, however, was ferocious and condemned as disproportionate by human rights groups and the United Nations. 

I was there at the time and saw how Israeli tank shells destroyed entire rows of buildings.  Military incursions sliced through neighborhoods on the outskirts of Gaza City like tornadoes.

Egypt kept its border zipped tightly shut throughout the war. President Hosni Mubarak didn’t want Hamas to spread or to encourage the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a group with historic links to Hamas. Many in the Arab world, and many Egyptians, thought Cairo was deliberately helping Israel. Palestinians couldn’t escape. Egyptians accused Mubarak of keeping the people of Gaza locked in like fish in a barrel, easily shot. Hamas couldn’t get supplies in from abroad to effectively fight back.  Israel won the war.

Mubarak was never fond of Hamas. If Israel beat Hamas to a pulp, he didn’t seem to mind. Maybe he hoped it would teach the people of Gaza not to elect Hamas in the future. Other Arab leaders seemed equally indifferent. They couldn’t — or wouldn’t — hold an emergency Arab summit. They couldn’t find a date that suited everyone’s schedule. The Arab street protested, but the regimes dispersed the crowds and moved on.

How things have changed. 

When hundreds of thousands of Egyptians stood in Tahrir Square and shouted, “The People Want to Topple the Regime,” Egypt became far more sensitive to public opinion. After all, isn’t that what democracy ultimately means – allowing the people’s opinions to drive policy?

It is therefore not surprising that one of Egypt’s first policy changes after its revolution was to announce the opening of the Rafah crossing with Gaza. 

Egypt is telling Israel, and undoubtedly its own people, that it will no longer be complicit in keeping Gaza locked down. If there were another bombardment on Gaza now, I’d expect thousands of Egyptians to march into the Gaza Strip, smartphones in hand. They’d turn themselves into human shields. Egyptians would try to make Gaza City into a giant Tahrir Square. There would be millions of alerts on Twitter. That might never happen. But the “can do” spirit of Tahrir Square — the belief that people power can make a difference — is still alive in the Middle East. It’s unclear how long it will last.

A new attempt at Arab unity
Egypt is also widening its gaze beyond Gaza. Egypt wants to lead the Arab world to create a new bloc to counter NATO, to be an alternative to the EU, a Middle East with collective power and bargaining rights. It may sound naive. It may be overly optimistic. It may ring of Egypt’s late president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, the champion of pan-Arabism. But Egypt wants to give it a try. 

Interim foreign minister el-Araby said Cairo will also normalize relations with Iran. The two states haven’t had full diplomatic ties for three decades. There’s a lot of water under that bridge. 

Egypt is Sunni. Iran is Shia. Egypt is Arab. Iran is Persian. The revolutionary theocracy established by Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran has long called Egypt an American lackey. There’s even a street in Tehran named after Khaled Islambouli, the man who assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at a parade in Cairo in October 1981. Iran honored Islambouli because he killed Sadat for making a peace agreement with Israel, a deal brokered by the United States at Camp David.

Egypt is trying to put that past behind it. It has gone so far as to release Islambouli’s co-conspirators from prison, including Abboud al-Zumar, one of the masterminds of Sadat’s assassination, which brought Mubarak to power. Al-Zumar says he wants to run for president, although it’s hard to imagine he’d be anything more than a fringe sideshow. 

So where is the Arab movement going? I think it ultimately leads to Jerusalem. If that is for better or worse for the world remains unclear.

Arab dreams die hard
In Benghazi, a few nights ago, I was watching an Egyptian movie from the 1960s on television.  It was a love story, like most of the classic Egyptian movies, so different from the cheap, violent Hollywood ripoffs made in the Arab world today. The black-and-white movies are the Middle East’s version of "Casablanca" and "The Maltese Falcon." They remain immensely popular. 

The movie on television in Benghazi was far too risqué to be produced today. The main character was a young Egyptian man dressed like Cary Grant in a tailored suit. He was love struck and spying on the woman of his dreams. Hiding below her house, he watched his unrequited love undress though a bedroom window.  The camera showed her naked body though a sheer curtain. A single lamp illuminated her bedroom. It was very sensual, even in black and white.  When the woman finally emerged from her room, dressed and ready, she wore a Hermès-style suit with a tight knee-length shirt and a fitted jacket. She carried a tiny leather purse that could have been used by Jackie Kennedy on Park Avenue. 

These movies were how Egypt, and most of the Middle East, wanted to see itself in the 1960s. Modern. Secular. Proud. United. No longer agrarian societies dominated by religious clerics and the often brutal tribal codes of village elders.

But fantasies and political realities are often broken by war. The Arab regimes of the 1960s ultimately proved to be failures to their people. In 1967, Israel defeated Egypt, Syria, Jordanand Iraq.  Israel did it in less than a week. For all the Arabs talk of strength and unity, all the outward impressions of prosperity captured in the black and white films, the Arab states were weak and divided. The humiliation of the 1967 war is still very alive in the collective psyche of the Arab world today, a scar on Arab pride.

This year is seeing another fundamental paradigm shift, arguably the biggest one since 1967.  The Arab world is changing because the Arab states failed their people again. 

I changed the channel from the Egyptian movie I was watching in Benghazi. I turned to Al-Jazeera. A reporter was discussing the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown on demonstrators, which has left hundreds dead.

It occurred to me then that the current Arab regimes didn’t fail their people with a six-day defeat by Israel, but through a collection of humiliations and failures that had reached a tipping point. 

From Tunisia to Egypt, Bahrain to Syria, Yemen to Libya, Arab states failed because they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) stop corruption. They couldn’t stand up to Israel. They couldn’t stand up to America. They couldn’t stop Abu Ghraib or Gitmo. They couldn’t provide jobs for their young people. They couldn’t produce many award-winning scientists. They weren’t becoming economic powerhouses like China or India. 

Arab state security agencies arrested and tortured their people at will. Their presidents lied about allowing more freedom and democracy. Their parliaments were jokes. The Middle East was backward and brutal, and because of new technologies like cell phones, Twitter and Facebook, the regimes couldn’t hide their failures any longer. 

Once the fear barrier was broken, there was no way to stop the crowds shouting, “The People Want To Topple The Regime!”

So what will the new era be like? 
I suspect the new Middle East will not embrace the hardest edge of radical Islam because that failed too. Just ask Osama bin Laden.  He didn’t topple a single regime and died a self-imposed prisoner in Pakistan. In fact, bin Laden was partly responsible for many of the region’s grievances — profiling at airports, denied visas, the hated link between Islam and terrorism.

Instead, I expect the Middle East will return to what it has always wanted: a mix of Pan-Arab nationalism and what I like to call “Islamic family values.” The states will also be far more sensitive to public opinion. Public opinion is the danger. It’s volatile and fickle and has been distorted for decades. Arab governments have, often deliberately, under educated or mis-educated their people as a means of control, especially in regards to Jews and Israel. The regimes wanted their students to learn to read and do basic math so they could operate the state — but not to think broadly enough to challenge it.

Egypt does have the free-thinking students of Tahrir Square who want an open society, but also people who believe Israel sent sharks fitted with GPS locators last year to eat tourists in Sharm el-Sheikh and ruin Egypt’s tourism industry. In my opinion, education is the most important factor to ensure long-term peace in the Middle East, or to at least give it a chance.

The emerging ideology, to coin an awkward phrase, Pan-Arab-Islamism, is likely to help groups like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is a political party, a religious group and a charity all at once. It rejects Bin Laden’s extremism, but is adamantly anti-Israel. 

The Brotherhood believes the key to a good life is to be a god-fearing Muslim and to read the Quran. It believes a woman’s place is in the home, but supports education for girls. It believes the West works against Muslims, but does not support violence against Christians. Its opinions on Jews are somewhat murkier. The Brotherhood plans to field candidates to contest half of the seats in Egypt’s parliament in the first election after Egypt’s revolution. The Brotherhood initially said it would only field candidates for 35 percent of the seats in parliament, but no longer believes that’s enough. The group clearly has high expectations.

What does it all mean for the United States and Israel?  
The changes in the Middle East may ultimately prove to be a challenge for Israel. Mubarak was an Israeli ally, albeit a cold one.  Israel may find it was easier to deal with a cold ally than the volatile Arab street with its prejudices and decades of scores to settle.

The Arab street is already demanding changes. For the first time in decades, protestors in Egypt last month were allowed to demonstrate directly in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo.  Under Mubarak, Egyptian security forces closed off the street leading to the embassy building.  Demonstrations used to take place several hundred yards away by checkpoints. Those few hundred yards are significant.  Like opening Gaza, Egypt is telling Israel, and its people, it will no longer defend Israel at the expense of alienating public opinion.

Egyptians also want their government to stop selling natural gas to Israel at favorable rates, and accuse Mubarak of profiteering from secretive Israeli-Egyptians gas deals.  Talk of Mubarak’s hidden wealth from contracts with Israel fill Egyptian newspapers every day.

The United States will be also need to adjust to the emerging reality. Mubarak was a reliable and warm ally. Washington may end up missing him. Washington could pick up the phone and know Mubarak could deliver on Egyptian policy.  Mubarak could be counted on to use his contacts with other Arab regimes. 

But Washington can’t cry over spilt dictators.  The system in the Middle East as it existed wasn’t working. There were too many failures to hide. 

The United States may also chafe at dealing with the new Pan-Arab-Islamism. A disturbing opinion poll said that the majority of Egyptians have a negative view of the United States.  The survey was taken after the Egyptian revolution. I was initially surprised by its findings.  The United States helped the Egyptian revolution. If the Washington hadn’t pressured the Egyptian army and threatened to cut off aid, Mubarak might have cracked down and stopped the revolution. Ask Syrians today how that feels. 

But Egyptians’ rejection of Mubarak was also a rejection of American policy. It was a cry for change.  If the Middle East was complicated before, it’s much trickier now. 

The public has a voice, plans, dreams and momentum. The people know they can bring change. Throwing out Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali may have just been the beginning. It’s a new Middle East.

Related link: NBC's Richard Engel responds to reader questions about Libya and the Middle East

See more of Engel's reporting on NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams

© 2013 msnbc.com  Reprints

Video: Few signs of foreign intervention in Syria

  1. Closed captioning of: Few signs of foreign intervention in Syria

    >> been another awful day in syria . the continuing government crackdown on protesters who want president assad out. richard is tracking it from benghazi. the problem today was syrians firing on their own people?

    >> reporter: it was, and that has been the problem from the start. the syrian government has denied entry visas to foreign journalists. it doesn't want to world to see what it is doing, which is a systematic city by city sweep against protesters. overnight, syria deployed tanks in this city. witnesses say cdozens of tanks have set up checkpoints and shelled the city earlier. even as funerals were held for protesters held in the seven-week crackdown. human rights protesters say they documented over 700 killings since the unrest began. more than 10,000 have been arrested, and there are no signs of foreign intervention coming or if the syrian government has any intention of stopping. syrian president bashar assad said he's fighting an arm ed infection outside of the country. the european unit has imposed an arms embargo on syria . but outside pressure isn't working. the assad regime believes it's in a fight for its survival. human rights groups in syria say at least 18 people were killed today alone.

    >> richard , before you go, about libya, where you are, a lot of talk about gadhafi. nato says they're not trying to kill him, but they killed his son, kit his house in the last raid. it's been a long time since we have seen moammar gadhafi alive.

    >> reporter: well, we have seen him, according to libyan state television tonight, the state television broadcast pictures without any date, showing gadhafi, apparently greeting tribal elders. he was wearing sunglasses. he expressed no emotion as he greeted the elders who seemed very unenthusiastic about the meeting. he was inside, in a building that appears to be a luxury hotel in tripoli.

    >> richard , thanks for all of tt.

Photos: Libya's uprising against Gadhafi

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  1. People gathering in Benghazi, Libya in mid-February of 2011 as protest against the rule of Moammar Gadhafi grew, in part triggered by the arrest of human rights activist Fethi Tarbel. EDITOR'S NOTE: The content, date and location of this image could not be independently verified. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Buildings at the entrance to a security forces compound burn in Benghazi, Feb. 21, 2011. Libyan protesters celebrated in the streets of Benghazi, claiming control of the country's second largest city after bloody fighting, and anti-government unrest spread to the capital with clashes in Tripoli's main square for the first time. (Alaguri / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi speaks on state television. Feb. 22, and signalled his defiance over a mounting revolt against his 41-year rule. (Libya TV via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Libyan U.N. ambassador Shalgham is embraced by Dabbashi, Libya's deputy U.N. Ambassador after denouncing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for the first time during a Security Council meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York on Feb. 25. Shalgam, a longtime friend and member of Gadhafi's inner circle, had previously refused to denounce Gadhafi. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Thousands of Libyans gather for the Muslim Friday prayers outside the courthouse in the eastern city of Benghazi on Feb. 25, 2011. Perhaps 8,000 people gathered for the midday prayers with a local imam, who delivered his sermon alongside the coffins of three men killed in the violent uprising that routed Gadhafi loyalists from Benghazi. (Gianluigi Guercia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Rebels hold a young man at gunpoint, who they accuse of being a loyalist to Gadhafi, between the towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf, March 3, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Pro-Gadhafi soldiers and supporters gather in Green Square in Tripoli, March 6, 2011. Thousands of Moammar Gadhafi's supporters poured into the streets of Tripoli, waving flags and firing their guns in the air in the Libyan leader's main stronghold, claiming overnight military successes. (Ben Curtis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Rebel fighters jump away from shrapnel during heavy shelling by forces loyal to Gadhafi near Bin Jawad, March 6. Rebels in east Libya regrouped and advanced on Bin Jawad after Gadhafi forces ambushed rebel fighters and ejected them from the town earlier in the day. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Libyan rebel fighters take cover as a bomb dropped by an airforce fighter jet explodes near a checkpoint on the outskirts of the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 7, 2011. (Marco Longari / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Libyan rebels fire rockets at government troops on the frontline. March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf. The rebels pushed back government troops westward towards Ben Jawat. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Libyan government soldiers aboard tanks at the west gate of the town Ajdabiyah March 16, 2011. Libya's army pounded an opposition-held city in the country's west and battled fighters trying to block its advance on a rebel bastion in the east amid flagging diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed. EDITOR'S NOTE: Picture taken on a government guided tour. (Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Libyan people in Benghazi celebrate after the United Nations Security Council authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, March 18. Thousands of Libyans erupted in cheers as the news flashed on a giant screen in besieged Benghazi late March 17. After weeks of discussion, the UN Security Council banned flights in Libya's airspace and authorized "all necessary means" to implement the ban, triggering intervention by individual countries and organizations like NATO. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A picture combo shows a Libyan jet bomber crashing after being apparently shot down in Benghazi on March 19, 2011 as the Libyan rebel stronghold came under attack. Air strikes and sustained shelling of the city's south sent thick smoke into the sky. (Patrick Baz / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Residents of Benghazi flee the city along the road toward Tobruk, in an attempt to escape fighting in their city, March 19, 2011. Gaddafi's troops pushed into the outskirts of Benghazi, a city of 670,000 people, in an apparent attempt to pre-empt Western military intervention expected after a meeting of Western and Arab leaders in Paris. (Reuters TV) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Gadhafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A rebel fighter carries his weapon outside the northeastern Libyan town of Ajdabiyah, March 21, 2011. A wave of air strikes hit Gaddafi's troops around Ajdabiyah, a strategic town in the barren, scrub of eastern Libya that rebels aim to retake and where their fighters said they need more help. (Finbarr O'reilly / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A Libyan rebel prays next to his gun on the frontline of the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi, March 21, 2011. The international military intervention in Libya is likely to last "a while," a top French official said, echoing Moammar Gadhafi's warning of a long war ahead as rebels, energized by the strikes on their opponents. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Libyan rebels retreat as mortars from Gadhafi's forces are fired on them near the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, March 22, 2011. Coalition forces bombarded Libya for a third straight night, targeting the air defenses and forces of Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi, stopping his advances and handing some momentum back to the rebels, who were on the verge of defeat. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A Libyan man is comforted by hospital staff as he reacts after identifying his killed brother in the morgue of the Jalaa hospital in Benghazi, March 22, 2011. His brother was killed earlier in fighting around the city of Ajdabiya. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Volunteer fighters training at a rebel army training camp in Benghazi, March 29, 2011. Pro-government forces intensified their attacks on Libyan rebels, driving them back over ground they had taken in recent days. The rebels had reached Nawfaliya, but pulled back to Bin Jawad. (Manu Brabo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Smoke billows as seven explosions were reported in the tightly-guarded residence of leader Moammar Gadhafi and military targets in the suburb of Tajura. Two explosions also rocked the Libyan capital Tripoli on March 29, 2011, as NATO-led coalition aircraft had been seen in the skies over the capital. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A Libyan rebel urges people to leave, as shelling from Gadhafi's forces started landing on the frontline outside of Bin Jawaad, 93 miles east of Sirte, March 29, 2011. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. General Abdel-Fattah Younis, former interior minister in the Gadhafi regime who defected in the early days of the uprising, is greeted by Libyan rebels at the front line near Brega, April 1, 2011. (Altaf Qadri / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Libyan men show the V-sign for victory as they stand on the deck of a Turkish ship arriving from Misrata to the port of Benghazi who were evacuated along with others the injured in the fighting between rebel and Gadhafi forces, April 03, 2011. The Turkish vessel took hundreds of people wounded in the Libyan uprising for treatment in Turkey from the two cities of Misrata and Benghazi. (Mahmud Hams / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A wounded prisoner from Gadhafi's forces is transported in the back of a pickup truck by rebels, on the way to a hospital for treatment, half way between Brega and Ajdabiya, April 9, 2011. Rebels say they took two prisoners after a clash with soldiers near Brega's university outside the government-controlled oil facilities, marking a noticeable advance by rebels. (Ben Curtis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. In this image taken from TV, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi makes a pubic appearance in Tripoli, April 14 2011. Gadhafi defiantly waved at his supporters while being driven around Tripoli while standing up through the sunroof of a car. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A rebel fighter celebrates as his comrades fire a rocket barrage toward the positions of government troops April 14, 2011, west of Ajdabiyah. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Gadhafi supporters hold copies of his portrait as they gather at the Bab Al Azizia compound in Tripoli, April 15, 2011. Rebels held much of eastern Libya by mid-April, while Gadhafi controlled the west, with the front line shifting back and forth in the middle. (Pier Paolo Cito / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Doctors work on a baby who suffered cuts from shrapnel that blasted through the window of his home during fighting in the besieged city of Misrata, April 18, 2011. Thousands of civilians are trapped in Misrata as fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels there. The Libyan government has come under international criticism for using heavy weapons and artillery in its assault on Misrata. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. MISRATA, LIBYA - APRIL 20: Libyan rebel fighters discuss how to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from the next room during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya. Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi April 20, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building that fought back instead of surrendering, firing on the rebels in the building and seriously wounding two of them during the standoff. Fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels ensconced there. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images) (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Libyan rebel fighters carry out a comrade wounded during an effort to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from a building during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011. Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Gaddafi, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building where they fought back instead of surrendering. Two rebels were seriously wounded during the standoff. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Rebels tread carefully as they prepare to invade a house where soldiers from the pro-government forces had their base in the Zwabi area of Misrata on April 24, 2011. (Andre Liohn / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Libyans inspect damage and an unexploded missile at the Gadhafi family compound in a residential area of Tripoli, May 1, 2011. Gadhafi escaped a NATO missile strike in Tripoli that killed one of his sons and three young grandchildren. EDITOR'S NOTE: Photo taken on a government guided tour. (Darko Bandic / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Moammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, center, leaves the funeral of his brother Saif Al-Arab Gadhafi, who was killed during air strikes by coalition forces, at the El Hani cemetery in Tripoli, May 2, 2011. Crowds chanting Gadhafi's name gathered in Tripoli for the funeral of his son and three grandchildren. (Louafi Larbi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Fleeing migrants and Libyans are seen on board an International Organization of Migration ship leaving the port of Misrata on May 4, 2011, as Gadhafi forces continued to pound the city. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Libyan men watch as the main fuel depot in Libya's third largest city, Misrata, burns following a bombing by Gadhafi's forces on May 7, 2011. Libyan regime forces shelled fuel depots in Misrata and dropped mines into its harbor using helicopters bearing the Red Cross emblem, rebels said as they braced for a ground assault. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Libyan rebels celebrate near the airport of Misrata on May 11, 2011 after capturing the city's strategic airport following a fierce battle with Moammar Gadhafi's troops -- their first significant advance in weeks. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Women react after a protest against Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Benghazi, Libya, on May 16, 2011. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, announced that he would seek arrest warrants against the leader of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the country's intelligence chief on charges of crimes against humanity. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Tripoli street in Misrata is seen from the terrace of a building used by Gadhafi’s snipers before the rebels took control of the area on May 22, 2011. The weeks-long siege of the city ended in mid-May and Tripoli Street was the site of the fiercest fighting in the battle and a turnin point in the war. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. A rebel fighter gives water to a soldier loyal to Gadhafi after he was wounded and then captured near the front line, west of Misrata on May 23, 2011. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. An uncle, left, prays over the body of one and a half year-old Mohsen Ali al-Sheikh during a washing ritual during the funeral at his family's house in Misrata, May 27, 2011. The child was killed by a gunshot during clashes between rebels and pro-Gadhafi forces earlier in the day. (Wissam Saleh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. The body of a drowned refugee floats near a capsized ship which was transporting an estimated 850 refugees from Libya, approximately 22 miles north of the Tunisian islands of Kerkennah, June 4, 2011. At least 578 survived the sinking. (Lindsay Mackenzie / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. A photograph taken from a video by a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter shows Mutassem Gadhafi, son of Moammar Gadhafi, drinking water and smoking a cigarette following his capture and shortly before his death, in Sirte, Oct. 20, 2011. (- / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. A photograph taken from mobile phone video of a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter shows the capture of Moammar Gadhafi in Sirte on Oct. 20, 2011. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. This image provided by the Libyan Youth Group on Nov. 19, 2011, shows Seif al-Islam Gadhafi after he was captured near the Niger border with Libya. Moammar Gadhafi's son, the only wanted member of the ousted ruling family to remain at large, was captured as he traveled with aides in a convoy in Libya's southern desert. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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