Libyan government forces destroyed four fuel storage tanks and set several others ablaze in rebel-held Misrata, dealing a blow to the port city's ability to withstand a government siege, rebels said on Saturday.
The attack on the western city came as artillery rounds fired by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi fell in Tunisia in an escalation of fighting near the border with rebels trying to end Gaddafi's rule of more than four decades.
Misrata, the last remaining city in the west under rebel control, has been under siege for more than two months and has witnessed some of the war's fiercest fighting.
Rebels gave varying accounts of the bombardment but said it hit fuel used for export as well as domestic consumption.
"Four (fuel) tanks were totally destroyed and a huge fire erupted which spread now to the other four. We cannot extinguish it because we do not have the right tools," rebel spokesman Ahmed Hassan told Reuters.
"Now the city will face a major problem. Those were the only sources of fuel for the city. These tanks could have kept the city for three months with enough fuel," he said by telephone.
No fuel means no way to survive the siege and no way to defend the city from the ground. At this point it's only a matter of time before Qaddafi's forces roll into the last rebel city and end this revolution with a bloody massacre. Qaddafi has all but won this war short of a major international intervention, and that intervention will now have to include ground forces.
And you can bet that will be coming. The siege of Misrata has all but broken the Libyan rebels. Things are about to get very, very ugly.