BENGHAZI, Libya — Rebel forces in Libya engaged in intense fighting on two fronts Wednesday, claiming to break through a three-day standoff with government fighters in the town of Bin Jawwad but suffering another day of heavy casualties in the besieged western city of Zawiyah.
In Zawiyah, government forces were heavily shelling the main square, residents said, with airstrikes, tank and mortar fire, machine guns and artillery.
"We need some international aid here," said an opposition spokesman in the city identified only as Mohamed. "At least stop them from having airplanes fly over us."
Zawiyah was bombed for a sixth consecutive day by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.
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The government said it had won control of Zawiyah, but those assertions could not be independently verified.
A soldier, Ayman Kikly, 29, said the rebels fought with anti-aircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs, but "the citizens who live here stood with the army, and they were outnumbered."
In Bin Jawwad, ground fighting resumed in an area that has been pounded by government airstrikes for the past three days. After losing the central coastal town in a bruising artillery battle Sunday, rebel forces made their first concerted effort to regain ground.
Beginning today, NATO defense ministers will meet for two days in Brussels, to determine whether and under what circumstances to impose a no-fly zone to stop Gadhafi's air attacks. Some Arab states in recent days have backed imposing a no-fly zone, but there is no consensus and such a plan could take some time to implement.
Western officials have expressed concerns that a no-fly zone would not turn the tide of the fighting. But diplomats said that if the Libyan government escalates attacks on civilians, there is strong support for such a move in many NATO capitals.
The Obama administration and its allies prefer to first get the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. But they may be willing to endorse the step without it, provided there is support from such organizations as NATO, the Arab League and the African Union. U.S. and European officials fear without such support, any Western-led intervention could provoke a negative reaction in Arab nations.