TRIPOLI/AJDABIYAH, Libya - Muammar Gaddafi's forces stormed the western rebel outpost of Misrata with tanks and artillery on Friday, a rebel spokesman said, while insurgents marshalled defenses in their eastern heartland.

A rebel leader speaking after talks with a UN envoy in Benghazi offered a ceasefire on condition Gaddafi left Libya and his forces withdrew from cities now under government control. It was unclear if the offer was part of broader diplomatic moves to end a conflict that appears deadlocked on the military front.

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Rebels speaking from Misrata said Gaddafi's forces had brought their superior firepower to bear on the insurgents' last western enclave with an intense bombardment.

"They used tanks, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds and other projectiles to hit the city today. It was random and very intense bombardment," the spokesman, called Sami, told Reuters by telephone. "We no longer recognize the place. The destruction cannot be described."

"The pro-Gaddafi soldiers who made it inside the city through Tripoli Street are pillaging the place, the shops, even homes, and destroying everything in the process."

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"They are targeting everyone, including civilians' homes. I don't know what to say, may Allah help us," he said.

The account from Misrata, Libya's third biggest city 200 km (130 miles) east of Tripoli, could not be verified. Authorities do not allow journalists to report freely from the city.

A doctor in Misrata told Reuters in an email that the 32nd Brigade, one of the best-equipped and trained units, had been sent early on Friday to seize control of the city.

"So the question is where is the international community?" the doctor said.

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