At least 18 people were killed and nearly 300 wounded in two days of clashes as Libya's new regime fighters struggled to take full control of Muammar Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, medics have said.
The push by National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters squeezed Gaddafi's diehard loyalists into an ever tighter net in Sirte, correspondents on the ground said.
NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil predicted "the battle for Sirte and Bani Walid will be very vicious," referring to the two holdouts of Libya's fallen leader.
Hassan Umran, in charge of the registry at a field hospital 50 kilometres west of Sirte, said 17 people were killed and 230 wounded in the fighting on Friday alone.
One was killed and 58 wounded yesterday, he said.
Forces from Libya's interim regime scored a strategic goal on Saturday, seizing a four-lane avenue which opens the way to a final assault on a key base of Gaddafi's troops.
But with thousands of civilians still trapped in the ex-leader's hometown, NTC commanders said they were pacing their advance to evacuate some of those who had not fled and to avoid losses from friendly fire.
Attacking from the east, NTC fighters seized the road to the Ouagadougou conference centre, a key base of pro-Gaddafi fighters still holding out after days of heavy pounding by NTC tank, cannon and rocket fire and ground assaults.
The advancing forces reached within between 500 metres and one kilometre of the centre and the nearby university, as Gaddafi loyalists responded with sporadic mortar and small arms fire, a correspondent said.