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A Libyan girl with her face painted with the pre-Gaddafi era flag takes part in the ongoing protest at the Tahrir square in Benghazi, Libya Saturday, March 12, 2011. Nasser Nasser/AP/Press Association Images

Gaddafi forces predict capture of rebel stronghold 'within 48 hours'

Libyan rebels are voicing fear and anger over a lack of international support for their cause – as Gaddafi’s son boasts that government forces will storm Benghazi within 48 hours.

LIBYAN REBELS BATTLED to hold a strategic eastern city against a punishing offensive by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi today – and voiced anger and frustration at the west for not coming to their aid. At the same time, government troops heavily shelled the last main rebel bastion near the capital.

Charred vehicles, bullet-riddled pickup trucks and an overturned tank littered the desert highway where pro-Gaddafi forces had fought up to the entrance of the key eastern city of Ajdabiya. An Associated Press Television News cameraman counted at least three bodies by the side of the road, evidence of fierce battles. Government troops were bringing in a stream of truckloads of ammunition, rockets and supplies — signs of an intensified effort by the Libyan leader to retake control of the country he has ruled with an iron fist for more than four decades.

The rebels lashed out at the west as the latest international effort to impose a no-fly zone over Libya stumbled along. Supporters in the UN Security Council were trying to push through a resolution to impose such a move along with other measures aimed at preventing Gaddafi from bombing his people, but Russia and Germany have expressed doubts.

“People are fed up. They are waiting impatiently for an international move,” said Saadoun al-Misrati, a rebel spokesman in the city of Misrata, the last rebel-held city in western Libya, which came under heavy shelling Wednesday.

“What Gaddafi is doing, he is exploiting delays by international community. People are very angry that no action is being taken against Gaddafi’s weaponry.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all sides to accept an immediate cease-fire. He warned Gaddafi’s forces against a march on Benghazi, the opposition’s de facto capital in the east, saying that “a campaign to bombard such an urban center would massively place civilian lives at risk.”

Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s forces have predicted that Benghazi will fall “within 48 hours”, reports the Guardian.

The strongman’s son, Saif al-Islam, “The military operations are finished,” he told France’s Euronews channel. “In 48 hours everything will be over. Our forces are close to Benghazi. Whatever decision is taken, it will be too late.”

Includes reporting by AP

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