Gadhafi Forces Attack Rebels Advancing West
Smoke rises from a military army base which fell to anti-Gadhafi rebels following an air strike by Libyan warplanes in Ras Lanouf, eastern Libya, March 6, 2011-

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have launched air strikes and engaged in heavy ground fighting with rebel forces advancing from the eastern part of the country.

Government forces pushed rebels out of the town of Bin Jawad Sunday. News agencies indicated the fighting turned deadly.

The rebels had been heading toward Mr. Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, about 160 kilometers west of Bin Jawad. Pro-Gadhafi forces remain in control of Sirte, and rebel commanders said earlier Sunday that government loyalists were reinforcing the town.

To the west of Sirte, about 200 kilometers from the capital Tripoli, residents of the rebel-held town of Misrata told news agencies by phone that government artillery and tanks were attacking Sunday.  It is unclear if there were any casualties.

Meanwhile in Tripoli, heavy gunfire broke out before dawn Sunday and continued for at least two hours. The reason for the gunfire was not immediately clear, but Libyan authorities said it was to celebrate the government retaking control of the rebel-held cities of Misrata and Ras Lanuf. Residents and eyewitnesses in both cities deny any government takeover.

Thousands of Gadhafi supporters poured into the streets of Tripoli following the claims of the government successes, waving flags, honking car horns and firing guns into the air.

Mr. Gadhafi's government has retained control of Tripoli, in the west, while rebel forces trying to topple his government have taken over much of eastern Libya.

Protests against Mr. Gadhafi erupted in mid-February, with demonstrators calling for an end to his 42-year rule.  The Libyan leader has refused demands to step down, at one point saying he expects to die a "martyr" in Libya.  

Libyan government forces advanced with tanks Saturday into Zawiyah, the rebel-held town closest to the capital. Western news organizations say there was heavy shelling as the security forces attempted to push into the town. At least seven people were reported dead in the clashes.

The rebels have vowed to continue efforts to advance toward Tripoli after turning back pro-Gadhafi forces from Ras Lanuf on Friday. by voa

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