There has been a steady stream of families leaving Sirte, the hometown of the deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Forces of the new administration have been able to edge into the outskirts of the city after weeks of being pinned down by Gaddafi loyalists in the stronghold.
Now National Transitional Council commanders are talking of a final big push to dislodge those who are left. It is a prospect many residents are eager to avoid.
At a roadside checkpoint NTC fighter Abdel Salam Alkrudi said: ‘There are families fleeing every day all the time. And every day it is more than the day before. One day you have 100 families, the next it is 200. This morning for example, in just three hours, we have had about 200 cars leaving.’
Reports have been emerging of heavy exchanges of fire already in the city. A Red Cross convoy succeeded in delivering supplies to a hospital there, but an earlier attempt had been aborted because of the fighting.
Aid agencies have expressed concern about the civilians left behind. The battle for Sirte so far has already left them running out of food, medicine, water and fuel.
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