Libyan warplanes strike outside rebel-held base

Rebels and Gaddafi forces fight for oil sites; warplanes bomb town of Brega for second day; gov't forces expand deployment.

Libyan anti-Gaddafi protests (R) 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)
Libyan anti-Gaddafi protests (R) 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)
Libyan rebels prepared for further attacks by forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi on Friday as both sides struggled for control of a strategic coastal road and oil industry facilities.
A Libyan warplane bombed just beyond the walls of a military base held by rebels in the eastern town of Ajdabiyah on Friday but did not hit it, rebel volunteers guarding the facility said.
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"We were sat here, heard the jet, then the explosion and the earth shook. They fell outside the walls," said Hassan Faraj, who was guarding an ammunitions store at the Haniyeh base.
Another volunteer guard, Aziz Saleh, said two rockets had been fired. They had landed just outside the walls of the base, he said.
US President Barack Obama said he was concerned a bloody stalemate could develop between Gaddafi and rebel forces but gave no sign of a willingness to intervene militarily.
Rebels holding the port city of Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of the capital, Tripoli, said they had launched counter-attacks against Gaddafi's forces massing in the area and warned supplies of medicines and baby milk were running low.
In eastern Libya, witnesses said a warplane bombed Brega, an oil terminal town 800 km (500 miles) east of Tripoli, for the second day on Thursday. Warplanes also launched two raids against the nearby rebel-held town of Ajbadiya, witnesses said.
Al Arabiya news network said on Friday Gaddafi's forces renewed bombing of the Libyan oil terminal of Brega, but three sources in the town said they were not aware of any new attack.
The Pentagon said there was evidence Gaddafi's forces were dropping ordnance but it was not clear if warplanes were bombing rebel forces.
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Gaddafi's forces deploy throughout country
In Zawiyah, residents said Gaddafi's forces had deployed in large numbers over the past days. "We estimate there are 2,000 on the southern side of town and have gathered 80 armored vehicles from the east," resident Ibrahim said, adding a battalion had also come from the west side.
"But our youths are not sitting idle. We killed two of their men last night and operations like these allow us to build up our arsenal. We have already seized 10 to 15 of the army's tanks and a large number of Kalashnikovs," he said.
His account could not immediately be verified.
The government says it is not using military force to retake rebel-held cities although one official did not rule it out if all other options were exhausted.
On Thursday, Venezuela said Gaddafi had agreed to its proposal for an international commission to negotiate an end to the turmoil in the world's 12th largest oil exporting nation. Venezuela hopes Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva could head the peace commission, a government source said.
'No need for foreign mediation'
Gaddafi's son Saif al Islam said there was no need for foreign mediation in the crisis, a leader of the uprising rejected talks with the veteran leader and the Arab League said cautiously the plan was "under consideration".
In Paris, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France and Britain would support the idea of setting up a no-fly zone over Libya if Gaddafi's forces continued to attack civilians.
But Juma Amer, secretary for African affairs at the Libyan Foreign Ministry, told journalists: "Media reports that civilian areas were bombed are false."
Saif said Brega was bombed to scare off militia fighters and to gain control of oil installations. "The bombs (were) just to frighten them to go away," he told Britain's Sky News.
On the ground, rebels leading the unprecedented popular revolt pushed their front line west of Brega. They said they had driven back troops loyal to Gaddafi to Ras Lanuf, site of another major oil terminal, 600 km (400 miles) east of Tripoli.