CNN Wire Staff
Tripoli, Libya (CNN) - Efforts to prevent forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from attacking civilians have been complicated by weather and the regime's decision to hide military equipment in populated areas and to use human shields, NATO Brig. Gen. Marc van Uhm said Tuesday.
Rebel leaders have criticized NATO's efforts in recent days, saying civilians and rebel forces in Misrata and elsewhere have suffered under hellish attacks from pro-Gadhafi forces with little evidence of NATO air power overhead.
"Before we put our faith in God and we were winning. Now we put our faith in NATO and we are losing," a rebel fighter near al-Brega said Tuesday.
Van Uhm, chief of allied operations at NATO, defended the organization's efforts, saying warplanes under NATO command flew 58 strike missions Monday, firing weapons and striking pro-Gadhafi targets on 14 of them.
He did not immediately have figures for previous days, but NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the warplanes had conducted 334 strike sorties since taking command of the mission on March 23.
"I think you can safely say the operational tempo continues unabated," she said.
In addition to using human shields and hiding equipment in populated areas, pro-Gadhafi forces have begun abandoning heavy military equipment in favor of the same kinds of cars and light trucks the rebels travel in, making it even more difficult for pilots to distinguish rebel convoys from those carrying forces loyal to the regime, van Uhm said.
Since the effort to enforce the U.N. resolution began in mid-March, airstrikes have taken out about 30% of Gadhafi's military capacity, van Uhm said.
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