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Heavy shelling breaks out in Benghazi


Libya’s opposition-controlled city of Benghazi has come under heavy artillery bombardment as pro-Gaddafi forces thrust into opposition strongholds from the city’s west and east.

Forces loyal to Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi have launched an all-out attack on opposition forces with fighter jets pummeling nearly all districts of the city. A series of large explosion crackled near the opposition headquarters in the city, Reuters quoted an opposition spokesman as saying on Saturday.

“They have entered Benghazi from the West. Where are the Western powers? They said they could strike within hours,” said Khalid al-Sayeh.

Reports say hundreds of people have fled eastward from Libya’s second lergest city of Benghazi amid the escalating rush of events in the North African country.

Crisis-hit Libya announced an immediate ceasefire Friday on all military operations against opposition forces after the UN Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution imposing a no-fly zone over the country.

Reports said one warplane has been shot down over the city as anti-government forces returned fire. There are also reports of heavy artillery and gunfire in the turmoil-hit city.

The attack comes despite the announcement by the Libyan regime that forces loyal to Gaddafi have halted all their military operations.

The UNSC also banned flights in Libya’s airspace and authorized “all necessary means” to implement the ban.

Pro-Gaddafi troops, backed by heavier armor and a monopoly on air power as compared to poorly armored opposition forces, have reportedly wrest back control of Zawiya and Zuwara west of the capital, Tripoli, and have tightened their siege of Misrata over the past few days.

They have also pushed revolutionary forces out of oil port cities of Ras Lanuf and Brega, and captured a strategic road junction at Ajdabiya.

Gaddafi’s forces, however, have lost vast swathes of Cyrenaica, the country’s fertile eastern coastal region to anti-government forces, who are struggling to penetrate deep into the front line westward toward the capital Tripoli, Gaddafi’s main stronghold.

The revolution that began on Feb. 15, in the eastern city of Benghazi and spread east to the capital Tripoli has been sliding toward a civil war that could be prolonged, with opposition forces backed by mutinous army units going on the offensive to try to put an end to Gaddafi’s 41-year-old despotic rule.

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