Reports say Moamer Kadhafi’s forces shelled the eastern town of Ajdabiya, the gateway to the rebel stronghold Benghazi and the launch point for rebel attacks on the Brega oil refinery. Opposition fighters had apparently attempted to advance towards Brega.
Witnesses say they heard gunfire and several large explosions. Rebels were then seen retreating east towards Benghazi.
Meanwhile in the east of Libya, a Red Cross ship carrying medical supplies docked in Misrata. The city has been under siege by Kadhafi’s forces for weeks and is said to be experiencing severe shortages of food, water and medicines.
Aid groups have been negotiating with Tripoli for more than a week in order to gain access to western cities. Local and international Red Cross officials have also been allowed to head for government-controlled Al Zawiyah.
The African Union’s special panel on Libya will travel to the country next week, South Africa announced on Saturday.
The delegation will meet Kadhafi in Tripoli and rebel leaders in Benghazi. Talks will focus on “the immediate implementation of a ceasefire from both sides”, Johannesburg said.
Meanwhile the Arab League says it will host a conference on Libya on 14 April. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the EU’s head of foreign policy Catherine Ashton are expected to attend.