Heavy fighting reached Tripoli Sunday morning as Muammar Qaddafi’s sons led a massacre of civilians, including women and children, and attacked ambulances carrying wounded rebels.
Opposition forces have downed more Libyan air force planes and have captured tanks and heavy weapons as many soldiers defect.
Oil has become the focus of battles outside of the capital of Tripoli, and Qaddafi’s forces claimed they re-captured Ras Lanuf, the site of an oil refinery in eastern Libya. Rebels maintained that the company town remains under their control. At least three government planes were downed by rebel’s anti-aircraft guns.
Libya is on the brink of civil war as the rebels’ rag-tag but highly motivated army moves on to Tripoli, which is heavily guarded by Qaddafi’s well-trained forces and spies.
Witnesses told several foreign media that his troops, led by the dictator’s sons, shot at people suspected of talking to reporters, shelled houses with tank fire and attacked ambulances.
More than 30 people, including women and children were massacred in the rebel-held city of Zawiya, 30 minutes west of Tripoli. "The tanks are shelling everything in their way, houses, [and] a mosque where hundreds of people are hiding. We can’t rescue anyone, the shelling is so heavy,” said a witness quoted by the London Mirror.
Qaddafi is not dismayed at the International Criminal Court’s launching of an investigation of his war crimes and he has pleaded to the world to help him defeat “terrorists.”
Qaddafi’s air force bombed the rebel-controlled city of Benghazi Saturday in an attack that was powerful enough "to destroy a whole city," one eyewitness told CNN.
The carnage and chaos have sparked a massive flight of hundreds of thousands people to Tunisia, Egypt and more distant countries that have been able to provide naval and aerial evacuations.
The instability in Libya has contributed to a rapid hike in the price of crude oil, which was traded at $104 a barrel on Friday, the highest price in more than two years.