Gaddafi forces break rebel defences

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Flames are seen after an explosion at an ammunition storage facility at a military base in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, eastern Libya (AP)

Muammar Gaddafi’s forces have broken through rebel defences at an opposition-held city closest to the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Witnesses said forces loyal to the regime of the country’s long-time leader were inside Zawiya, 30 miles west of Tripoli, after overcoming rebel positions with heavy mortar shelling and machine gun fire.

Shelling damaged government buildings and homes.

Witnesses said several fires were raging in Zawiya and that heavy black smoke hung over many parts of the city of some 200,000 people. They said snipers were shooting on sight anyone on the streets or residents who venture out on their homes’ balconies.

The city’s rebels, they said, had retreated to take new positions deeper inside the city.

“We will fight them on the streets and will never give up so long as Gaddafi is still in power,” said one of the rebel fighters.

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