Libyan rebels said they are now in control of all of the Western Mountains area after fierce battles with forces loyal to leader Moamer Gaddafi, rebels military spokesman Ahmed Bani said Thursday.
Bani said the region is very important to the opposition fighters, as they are now only 50 kilometres away from the capital, Tripoli.
The rebels took control of al-Qawalish, a town south of the capital, on Wednesday, thus getting closer to Tripoli, which is still controlled by Gaddafi.
Bani said that rebels in the city of Misurata have joined forces with those in the city of Zlitan, both east of Tripoli, in order to seize the rest of the city, where two of Gaddafi's biggest brigades are deployed. Fighting continued for 14 hours on Wednesday, and many deaths were reported.
This is one of the most important battles, as getting closer to seizing Tripoli is a moral boost for the rebels, Bani told the German Press Agency dpa.
NATO has recently intensified its attacks on the west of the country, where heavy clashes continued almost daily between rebels and forces loyal to Gaddafi.
The military alliance said its strikes will limit the ability of pro-Gaddafi forces to threaten Libyan civilians and significantly degrade logistical support for Gaddafi's campaign in eastern Libya.
The uprising to oust Gaddafi, who has been in power for 42 years, began in mid-February as protests turned into an armed conflict after a bloody government crackdown on demonstrators.
NATO has, to date, mounted a total of 14,147 sorties, including 5,342 strikes, since it began United Nations-sanctioned operations on March 31, the alliance said on Thursday.