Up to 50 people died in fighting when Gadhafi’s regime struck back at its opponents with a powerful attack Friday on the closest opposition-held city to Tripoli and a barrage of tear gas and live ammunition to smother new protests in the capital.
Gaddafi loyalists have launched an operation to retake the town from rebel forces.
Heavy casualties have been reported, with one witness telling Reuters news agency that up to 50 people were dead.
A witness in Zawiya’s hospital said at least 18 people were killed and 120 wounded.
A doctor on the scene said pro-Gadhafi fighters would not allow medics to treat the injured, opened fire on ambulances trying to assist and hauled away the bodies of some of the dead in an apparent effort to keep death toll reports low.
“There were so many people killed. I can’t describe it,” said a resident of Benghazi who gave his name as Abdullah and whose voice was filled with emotion.
Fierce fighting has also been reported in the oil port of Ras Lanuf, while in the capital, Tripoli, security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters and there are reports of Pro-Gaddafi militias roaming Tripoli in civilian cars, amidst a wave of detentions, killings and disappearances.
There’s also been a report this morning of an explosion at a military depot in Benghazi and we’ll cross to our correspondent Ben Knight who was in the town very shortly.
So the last 24 hours has seen a significant surge of violence across Libya