Troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi were surrounding the city of Zlitan, just 160 kilometers east of Tripoli, rebels said, after fighting broke out there that could open up the coastal road to the capital.
Sporadic clashes between Qaddafi's forces and the rebels continued in Zlitan, a rebel spokesman said, after the rebels took control of some parts of it. He said the situation was calmer than on June 10 and the toll remained 22 rebels killed.
"Zlitan is still surrounded by Qaddafi troops and they are threatening the residents to surrender or have their women raped by mercenaries," spokesman Ahmed Bani said.
It was not possible to independently verify the rebels' claim. There was no immediate comment from Qaddafi's government.
Zlitan is one of three towns that are largely government controlled between the rebel-held Misurata and the capital. Were it to fall, it could allow the anti-Qaddafi uprising to spread from Misurata, the biggest rebel outpost in western Libya, to Qaddafi's stronghold in Tripoli.
Qaddafi's forces also shelled for the first time the World Heritage-listed city of Gadamis, 600 kilometers southwest of Tripoli on the Tunisia and Algerian border, overnight, opening a new front in the five-month civil war.
A Reuters correspondent in Tripoli heard no new NATO bombings today. Rebels in various flashpoints also said there were no new air strikes.