TRIPOLI, Libya – In a one-two punch against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, NATO warplanes struck a command center in the capital, Tripoli, on Tuesday after pounding regime targets around the besieged port of Misrata. Rebels hoped the stepped-up attacks could help extend some of their biggest advances to date, including a major outward push from Misrata.

The opposition also said it made gains along a long-deadlocked front near the eastern town of Ajdabiya.

Gadhafi, Libya’s autocratic ruler since 1969, has not been seen in public since one of his sons was killed in a NATO airstrike April 30.

The rebels’ military spokesman, Col. Ahmed Bani, said opposition forces had pushed Gadhafi’s troops out of rocket range on the west side of Misrata and dislodged them from the airport after two days of battles, raising the prospect that the siege could be broken.

Speaking to The Associated Press in the rebel headquarters city of Benghazi, Bani said Gadhafi’s brigades were pushed about 10 miles back from Misrata’s airport.

“The picture is looking good for us,” he said.

In another boost to the opposition, the U.S. State Department said the first load of non-lethal American military aid for the rebels landed Tuesday at the port in their headquarters city, Benghazi.

Spokesman Mark Toner said the shipment consisted of more than 10,000 meals, with further shipments of medical supplies, boots and protective gear to arrive shortly. The delivery came ahead of planned meetings in Washington this week between U.S. officials and the head of the opposition Transitional National Council.

The Libyan conflict, dating to mid-February, had seemed stalemated for more than a week, with most of the fighting along the border with Tunisia in the far west. The latest airstrikes and overland advances may give the rebels new momentum in their struggle to topple Gadhafi and win greater freedoms.