Benghazi: NATO operations in Libya entered 100th day on Monday with airstrikes having eased the siege of key rebel cities but with Muammar Gaddafi in power, fears of an open war is still lingering.

Three months after French jets flew their first missions over eastern Libya, NATO is still pounding targets across the country in what has become a war fought on multiple fronts, but with few clear victories for either side.

As "Operation Unified Protector" approaches its 5000 strike sortie, NATO is still hitting around 50 targets a day,mostly in or around Tripoli and Misrata in the west; Brega in the east; and the Nafusa Mountains to the south of the capital.

But the alliance's early success in pushing Gaddafi's forces outside striking distance of Benghazi and Misrata have not decisively tipped the balance in favour of the rebels.

An uneasy stalemate has taken hold, with rebel fighters told to hold their positions around Misrata and Ajdabiya, near Brega, despite the occasional rocket or mortar attack causing casualties.

"It was all quiet today," said Musa Maghrebi, a rebel based at Ajdabiya, late yesterday. "The forces are staying in position."

Only in the Nafusa Mountains does the rebel army of ill-equipped irregulars and defectors appear to be making any sustained progress toward Tripoli.

Despite NATO's limited success in neutralizing Gaddafi's forces, most Libyans in the east remain strongly in favour of the alliance's mission.

Forty-six-year-old Musa Mubarak Al-Okaili, whose brother Mohammed died 100 days ago after his MiG-23 jet was shot down by Gaddafi forces while he defended Benghazi, said NATO had helped prevent a massacre.

"They are helping us out," he said, sitting by a shrine to his brother at the family home just outside the rebel capital.

(Agencies)