Fighting on Libyan border crossing

Rebels retake border crossing, as fighting spills onto Tunisian territory.

    Gaddafi loyalist forces won back the Dehiba-Wazin, forcing rebels to retreat into Tunisian territory

    Muammar Gaddafi's forces continued to battle rebels for control of the strategically important Dehiba-Wazin Crossing into the night, as Tunisia protests against intrusions into its territory.

    Rebels had taken the crossing a week ago, but on Thursday pro-Gaddafi forces attempted to retake it.

    They were initially successful, pushing opposition forces to retreat to the Tunisian side of the border, leaving the entire frontier in the hands of pro-Gaddafi forces.

    Reporting from the border on Thursday evening, Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reported there were rockets landing and artillery being fired.


    "It is hugely fluid and it is very active," she said.

    While Gaddafi's forces are better armed and trained, there is a massing of opposition forces, she said, "gathering together for one enormous, collective push".

    The crossing, near the western mountains, has been a main route of escape for Libyan nationals fleeing the conflict since the rebels claimed control on April 21.

    Prior to then, residents of the western mountains area had been forced to take long and difficult roads around the crossing in order to seek shelter or medical help in Tunisia.

    Controlling the crossing also gave the rebels better access to aid and supplies to continue their fight against Gaddafi forces in western Libya.

    Government forces closed in on rebel outposts on Thursday, showering the western mountain city of Zintan with missiles and attacking rebels holed up near the border, according to rebel sources.

    The Tunisian foreign ministry issued a statement, urging border violations to stop, as fire landed on its side of the border.

    Government forces closed in on rebel outposts on Thursday, showering Zintan with missiles and attacking rebels holed up near the border, according to rebel sources.

    A rebel spokesperson said Zintan had come under fire from Grad missiles - the Russian-made battlefield rockets used by Gaddafi forces which are considered hazardous to civilian areas because of their inaccuracy.

    "Today alone, 80 missiles hit the town. We knew they are Grad missiles by the sound they make and we checked what remained of them," the spokesperson, identifying himself as Abdulrahman, told the Reuters news agency by telephone.

    "The rebels are preventing the army reaching the city. That is why Gaddafi forces are using missiles to subjugate the town".

    Gaddafi denies his forces are attacking civilians and describes his opponents as Islamist extremists and foreign-backed agitators who deliberately put non-combatants in harm's way.

    Misurata airport

    Al Jazeera reports on evacuation of nearly one thousand from Misurata

    Libyan rebels meanwhile have fought to take over control of Misurata's airport, after pushing back government forces from the embattled city's sea port as the oil-rich country's tribes urged Gaddafi to relinquish power.

    Rebels in Libya's third-largest city said they were confident victory was "very close" for them in the strategic port city as a UN panel arrived in Libya to investigate violence and human rights abuses.

    "Our freedom fighters have managed to defeat the soldiers of Gaddafi" by forcing them out of Misurata, Khalid Azwawi, head of the local transition committee, said late on Wednesday.

    "They managed to force them to leave, but not very far. That's why Gaddafi is trying to bomb the port," he said.

    There are also reports of heavy clashes between Gaddafi forces and rebels in the desert town of Kufra in Libya's remote southeast, Al Jazeera has learned.

    Evacuation of refugees

    While heavy shelling has prevented ships from docking in Misurata to deliver humanitarian supplies and evacuate the wounded, the International Organisation for Migration said it had managed to evacuate 935 refugees to the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, on Thursday.

    The vessel, Red Star, had been held off the Libyan coast as forces loyal to Gaddafi shelled the besieged city's port, a lifeline for those seeking to escape to the rebel stronghold.

    Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, reporting from onboard the vessel before it docked on Thursday, said 25 people were seriously injured, of whom three are in critical condition.

    "As long as pro-Gaddafi forces retain their longterm artillery capability, then any calm that might return to Misurata's port would be misguided. It has been clear all along that Gaddafi will go to any length in this battle just as it is blatantly evident that he wants to cut off this lifeline," he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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