Rebels on Thursday inched closer to Ajdabiya in a bid to retake the strategic eastern oil city from troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, an AFP journalist witnessed.
Shelling and gunfire could be heard at a rebel outpost 9 kilometres from the city where hundreds of fighters amassed in the morning before marching in on the city.
"They are shooting at us with tanks, artillery and Grad missiles," said Mohamed, a rebel returning from the frontline. "We have nothing but light weapons whereas they have heavy ones."
The rebels, whose weapons range from Kalashnikovs to knives, are trying to enter the city from several fronts and managed to get within one kilometre to Ajdabiya's eastern entrance, said Mohamed.
Tanks guarded the northern and western entrances.
Heavy fighting Wednesday forced residents to flee en masse.