Libyan rebels have said they captured several residential districts in Brega, a key oil port that has been the scene of recent clashes between the opposition and forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi.
A rebel spokesman said two of their fighters were killed and at least 16 others wounded in Thursday's fighting for the control of the port city located about 750 kilometers east of Tripoli.
There were also reports that the rebels forces in the west pushed toward the coastal town of Zawiya Thursday — the closest rebels have come to Tripoli, Mr. Gadhafi's main stronghold.
The embattled leader has clung to power despite the nearly five-month NATO air campaign, tightening economic sanctions, and an expanding war with rebels seeking his ouster.
In a separate development Thursday, the European Union stepped up pressure on the Libyan government by expanding sanctions against the country. The EU imposed restrictions on the al-Sharara oil company and an administrative affairs organization with ties to the government in Tripoli.
The Libyan uprising began in February. The Gadhafi government has been widely criticized for responding to unrest and pro-democracy demonstrations with a fierce crackdown.
NATO has been carrying out air attacks against pro-Gadhafi forces in Libya since March. On Thursday, the French News Agency quoted the NATO commander of Libyan operations as saying Mr. Gadhafi's forces have been weakened and are “no longer able to launch a credible offensive.”