Libyan rebels have advanced from the western port of Misrata towards the capital, Tripoli, breaking a government siege as fighters across the country renew their revolt against leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Several rebel units Monday pushed the front lines west from Misrata to the outskirts of Zlitan, a neighboring town held by Mr. Gadhafi's forces.
The two sides traded heavy rocket and artillery fire, with rebels using arms seized from government weapons depots and fresh armaments shipped from the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.
However in eastern Libya, anti-government fighters suffered a major setback Monday near the oil town of Brega, where pro-Gadhafi troops killed at least 21 rebels in an ambush east of the city.
Meanwhile, Germany has recognized Libya's rebel Transitional National Council as the "legitimate representative of the Libyan people." Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle made the announcement Monday during a visit to Benghazi. He said Germany, which has not participated in the NATO air campaign against Libya, will open a small mission in Benghazi.
Germany joins several other nations in recognizing the opposition council. They include France, Italy, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The Obama administration is supporting the rebel cause but has stopped short of recognition.
Also Monday, two key U.S. senators unveiled a bill that would allow the United States to confiscate up to $10 billion in frozen Libyan government assets and use it for humanitarian aid in the war-torn country.
Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, a Democrat, and the top Republican on the panel, Senator Richard Shelby, said their measure would help ease dire shortages of food and basic medical equipment.
Libyan rebel forces are attempting to take advantage of increased coordination with NATO to mount a series of attacks.
In Zawiyah, a strategic city 50 kilometers west of the capital, Libyan rebels have regrouped and clashed with pro-Gadhafi forces, weeks after troops had forced the rebels' retreat.
A London-based opposition spokesman said Sunday that several hundred rebel fighters controlled large areas of western Zawiyah as well as a section of the coastal highway. A government official denied the report.
Loyalist forces killed at least five people when mortar shells and Grad rockets hit Zintan, part of the rebel-held Western Mountains region.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.