As Libyan government forces continue to shell the besieged western Libyan port city of Misrata, civilian casualties mount and the situation inside the rebel-controlled part of the city becomes increasingly desperate. International humanitarian groups, meanwhile, are evacuating hundreds of people stranded inside the city.
Libyan rebel fighters have captured a remote border post with neighboring Tunisia Thursday in a rare recent victory against government forces. Witnesses say several hundred men loyal to embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi fled over the border into Tunisia.
A rebel fighter told al Jazeera TV that his men surrounded the border post during the night and captured it after what he described as heavy fighting. Several towns near the border are reportedly being shelled by pro-Gadhafi forces.
The besieged port city of Misrata, part of which is held by rebel fighters, continues to be pounded by shells, rockets and mortar bombs by pro-government forces. Western reports say a number of people were killed and wounded in the shelling.
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Four Western photo-journalists were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade as they covered street-fighting along Misrata's main boulevard late Wednesday. Two of the journalists, including award-winning British film director Tim Hetherington, were killed by shrapnel from the explosion.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim denied that government forces had targeted the journalists and insisted that they were only firing at enemy targets:
"We are sorry for the loss of any human life," said Ibrahim. "We are sorry for the loss of the rebels' lives and we said we want people to stop fighting so no one dies. We do not kill anyone that does not fight us. We need to check the circumstances in which this journalist died, and it's war of course. People die from our side, from their side. People get caught in the middle. We don't know the circumstances. We need to check the circumstances. But, of course, we are very sad that someone died."
Amid the fighting, aid groups continue to evacuate Misrata residents. Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), says hundreds of foreign workers and some Libyans are in the process of being evacuated:
"Initially we had thought there were about 6,000 people within the harbor compound area in Misrata in need of humanitarian evacuation," said Chauzy. "To date we've evacuated about 3,100 [and] we've got another 900 people who were evacuated aboard [a] Turkish ship. So, logically there should be a few thousand left. But what we hear is that the news of the evacuation is now circulating, and that more people are taking chances to reach the harbor area to benefit from this evacuation."
Libyan state television showed images of civilian areas near the capital, Tripoli, that it contends were targeted by NATO. The airstrikes reputedly killed seven people and wounded 18 others.
The commander of NATO operations in Libya, Canadian General Charles Bouchard, urged civilians to stay away from Mr. Gadhafi's forces to insure their safety.