There are fears that Libya’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s rule is turning into a protracted civil war. Witnesses say government forces have recaptured the town of Bin Jawad from the rebels.
Anti-government fighters claim to be in control of Zawiyah just 50 kilometres west of the capital Tripoli, but forces loyal to the Libyan leader have been counter-attacking with considerable power.
Rebel leaders said they fought off three assaults by government tanks and infantry over the weekend, each one bigger than the last.
In the clearest government overture towards the rebels yet, a former prime minister Jadallah Azous Al-Talhi spoke on state TV appealing for dialogue ‘to help stop the bloodshed.’
In the interim, pro-Gaddafi troops have begun moving on the rebel-held oil town of Ras Lanuf, forcing residents to flee.
They have also tried to re-take Misrata, a city that could prove to be a vital stepping stone in the rebels’ stuttering advance on Tripoli which remains one of Gaddafi’s last bastions of power.
There have been public displays of support for him in the capital, celebrating the actions of their military.
It is that capacity to fight back that is raising concerns that many more will die before this conflict is over.