Libyan rebel fighter take a rest at a check point prior heading towards the front line outside the Libyan eastern city Ajdabiya on May 12, 2011, where fighting between rebels and forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi is ongoing. Rebels controlled the airport in Misurata, spokesmen for the Libyan rebels said. UPI\Tarek Alhuony. | License Photo
TRIPOLI, Libya, June 11 (UPI) -- Rebel and government forces fought in the Libyan port and refinery city of Zawiya Saturday, officials said.
The battle, within 30 miles of Tripoli, apparently forced the closure of a key highway running from the Libyan capital to the Tunisian border, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Explosions also were heard in Tripoli Saturday, the newspaper said.
Rebel spokesman Shamsiddin Abdulmolah said the intense fighting had left the rebels in control of large chunks of Zawiya.
Government spokesman Musa Ibrahim said, however, the rebels only numbered about two dozen and never penetrated beyond the outlying areas of the city.
Government troops in Misurata were still engaged by rebel fighters. Fighting also was reported in Dafniya, the Times said.
Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had launched an unprecedented artillery attack on rebel-held Misurata Friday, killing at least 31 rebels, witnesses said.
The barrage on the city anti-government fighters took over in mid-April involved tanks, mortars and rockets that rained down Friday, a day after NATO Apache helicopters bombed Libyan military and communications facilities, The Guardian reported.
Rebel Mohamed Khalid told the British newspaper two Libyan tanks had been captured and destroyed, but he didn't understand why NATO didn't intervene during the hours-long attack on the city.
"The tanks were clear for NATO. They were very easy to see," he said.
There was no immediate response from the alliance, which was authorized by the United Nations Security Council to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and a naval blockade of arms in the Mediterranean Sea.
The North African country has been wracked by violence since March when demonstrators calling for an end to Gadhafi's 42 years in power were met with force by the military, sparking the U.N. resolutions calling for the protection of civilians.