A rebel force of about 200 fighters advancing from the south reached a bridge on Az-Zawiyah’s southwestern outskirts, and some rebels pushed farther into the city’s central main square.
They tore down the green flag of Gaddafi’s regime from a mosque minaret and put up two rebel flags. An Associated Press reporter traveling with the rebels saw hundreds of residents rush into the streets, greeting the fighters with chants of “God is great.”
Gaddafi’s forces then counterattacked, unleashing rounds of heavy shelling and gunfire could be heard as rebels and government troops battled.
Regime snipers were firing down from rooftops on the rebels, said one resident, Abdel-Basset Abu Riyak, who joined to fight alongside the rebels when they entered the city. He said Gaddafi’s forces were holed up in several pockets in the city and that there were reports of reinforcements coming from Tripoli, though there was no sign of them yet.
Speaking to the AP by telephone, Abu Riyak said residents were now joining up with the rebels’ assault, saying, “95 percent of Az-Zawiyah’s people are with the revolution.”
“There is shooting from all sides,” said another rebel, 23-year-old Ibrahim Akram. “The people joined us. Fierce clashes are still ongoing, but thank God our numbers are great.”