Anti-Gaddafi fighters say they have made major gains in the battle for the ousted Libyan leader’s hometown of Sirte, capturing the university area of the city and a sprawling conference centre.
Both targets had been strongholds for loyalists to the former regime.
Reports from Sirte’s main hospital suggest that it too is now in the hands of Libya’s new government forces.
The fighting is not over yet, however, and the former rebels say they are holding off an assault on Sirte’s main square to let civilians escape.
“The heavy fighting and bombardment has been continuous and unbearable,” said Abdullah Salim, fleeing with his family. “We have no option but to leave.”
Conditions inside the city are increasingly desperate, with no electricity and drinking water, and food is running out. The UN has warned Libya’s new rulers that there should be no reprisals against residents of Sirte, which has held out as the last major bastion of pro-Gaddafi support.