FRANCE 24's reporters witnessed rebel forces coming under heavy fire on Thursday as forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi managed to gain a foothold inside the key oil port of Ras Lanouf.
More than 500km (300 miles) east of Muammar Gaddafi's stronghold, warplanes and gunboats bombarded rebels in the oil port of Ras Lanuf on Thursday, with missiles crashing near a building of the Libyan Emirates Oil Refinery Company. Warplanes also hit Brega, another rebel-held oil hub further east.
Rebel fighters said Ras Lanuf's residential district, including the hospital, weathered a heavy bombardment as government forces advanced into the area, backed by rocket fire from sea, air and ground.
Rebels also reported an air strike on Brega, another oil port 90km (50 miles) east of Ras Lanuf, indicating that Gaddafi loyalists had not only halted a westward insurgent push in its tracks but were making inroads into their eastern rearguard.
State television said rebels were ousted on Thursday from the port and airport of Es Sider, another oil terminus about 40km (25 miles) up the coast west of Ras Lanuf.
The poorly-equipped rebels conceded they were struggling to hold ground against the government's vastly superior firepower.
"(Gaddafi) might take [Ras Lanuf]. With planes, tanks, mortars and rockets, he might take it," said rebel fighter Basim Khaled.
"A no-fly zone would be great," said rebel fighter Salem al-Burqy, echoing the view of many comrades.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam told Reuters in an interview that Libyan forces were ready to crush a three-week-old insurrection.
"It's time for liberation. It's time for action. We are moving now," he said, adding that the time for negotiations was over.
Saif al-Islam described rebels fighting to end Gaddafi's 41-year rule as terrorists and armed gangsters and said thousands of Libyans had volunteered to fight them.
Date created : 2011-03-10