Government opponents in the Libyan city of Az Zawiyah have repulsed an attempt by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi to retake the city closest to the capital, Tripoli, in six hours of fighting overnight, witnesses say.
Tursday's claims follow reports that government forces attacked the city from the west and the east, and that fighter jets bombed an ammunition depot in the eastern city of Ajdabiya.
There was no word on casualties in Az Zawiyah, which is 50km west of Tripoli.
"We will not give up Az Zawiyah at any price,'' one witness said on Tuesday.
"We know it is significant strategically. They will fight to get it, but we will not give up. We managed to defeat them because our spirits are high and their spirits are zero."
The rebels, who include army forces who defected from the government, are armed with tanks, machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.
They fought back pro-Gaddafi troops using the same weapons who attacked from six directions.
Battle for Az Zawiyah
A resident of Az Zawiyah told the Associated Press news agency by telephone on Monday that fighting started in the evening and intensified after dusk when troops loyal to Gaddafi attacked the city.
"We were able to repulse the attack. We damaged a tank with an RPG. The mercenaries fled after that," said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.
He said Gaddafi called the city's influential tribal leader, Mohammed al-Maktouf, and warned him that if the rebels did not leave the main square by early Tuesday, they would be hit by fighter jets.
"We are expecting a major battle," the resident said, adding that the rebels killed eight soldiers and mercenaries on Monday.
AP said its reporter saw a large, pro-Gaddafi force massed on the western edge of Az Zawiyah.
There were also about a dozen armoured vehicles along with tanks and jeeps mounted with anti-aircraft guns.
An officer said the troops were from the elite Khamis Brigade, named after one of Gaddafi's sons who commands it and said by US diplomats to be the best-equipped force in Libya.
Gaddafi, Libya's ruler of 41 years, has already lost control of the eastern half of the country since protests demanding his resignation began two weeks ago. He still holds Tripoli.