Rebel fighter moves across the desert in eastern Libya
Rebel fighter moves across the desert in eastern Libya Reuters

Libyan rebels who are seeking to capture the city of Sirte are facing a frenzied defense from government forces loyal to Moammar Gaddafi for the town.

Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, would represent a symbolic breakthrough for the rebels who (with the assistance of western air strikes) has snared a string of coastal cities under their control over the past few days, including Ajdabiya, Brega, Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad.

According to media reports, rebels are fighting state troops in a region about 100 kilometers east of Sirte, with Gaddafi’s supporters shelling their front lines.

There are also reports of brutal clashes in the town of Nawfaliya, about 180 kilometers east of Sirte, where Gaddafi’s troops have apparently dug in and are shelling rebel factions.

An Al Jazeera reporters who is near Nawfaliya, said: I've not been able to confirm that there has actually been an advance in the town itself [Sirte]. They [rebels] managed to get really close to Sirte but they didn't get in.

An opposition commander, General Hamdi Hassi, told Al Jazeera: Sirte will not be easy to take. Now, because of NATO strikes on [the government's] heavy weapons, we're almost fighting with the same weapons.

Another rebel military leader, Fawzi Bukatif, the commander of the Martyr's Brigade, told Al Jazeera:

We're maneuvering ... we are starting ... we are checking what kind of forces they have there but we are standing at Hagela now - almost 100 kilometers from Sirte.

Bukatif added that the rebels' advance has been hurt by a lack of weapons since they rely on old Russian weapons.

The ... problem we have is we have run out of weapons, he said.

You know, our weapons are traditional ones; the old ones; the Russian weapons. We need ammunition. We need new weapons. We need anti-tanks; we do not have facilities [but] we have the soldiers left behind by Gaddafi. If we do have weapons and ammunitions that we need at the moment, we can move strongly and faster.

Also, new round of battles were reported in Misrata, a rebel area in the western part of Libya that has ceded partial control to government troops.

Part of the city is under rebel control and the other part is under the control of forces loyal to Gaddafi, a spokesman told the Reuters.

There were reports of many civilian deaths in Misrata, but none could be confirmed.

Meanwhile, UK aircraft continued to pound Libyan targets on Monday, including the destruction of government ammunition bunkers in the Sabha area of the southern desert, the British defense ministry said.

Storm Shadow missiles were launched against ammunition bunkers used to re-supply Libyan government troops attacking civilians in the north of the country, including Misrata, the British ministry said in a statement.