Italy 'offers to arm rebels' as Gaddafi forces destroy oil tanks

Anti-Gaddafi rebels say Italy has offered to arm them with "whatever they need to liberate Libya". A rebel spokesman in the eastern city of Benghazi, declined to specify what kind of weapons would be provided, and last night the Italian foreign ministry denied the claim.

The confusing reports came after Libyan government forces attacked a Misrata oil depot, causing a huge fire. Fuel tanks were still engulfed in flames hours after the early morning attack. The depot contains vital stores of fuel for cars, trucks, ships and generators powering hospitals and other key sites.

Rebel spokesman Ahmed Hassan said: "Four fuel tanks were totally destroyed and a huge fire erupted which spread to the other four. We cannot extinguish it because we do not have the right tools. Now the city will face a major problem. Those were the only sources of fuel for the city. These tanks could have kept the city for three months with enough fuel."

Mr Hassan said government forces used small planes normally used to spray pesticides for the overnight attack in the Qasr Ahmed neighbourhood. He later told Al-Jazeera television that three helicopters bearing Red Crescent insignia conducted the attack.

Another rebel spokesman, who gave his name as Abdelsalam, said a government helicopter conducted a reconnaissance mission over the port and two hours later at around midnight local time government forces fired rockets that hit three fuel tanks belonging to the Brega Oil Company.

Footage of the incident posted on YouTube by Libyan students in Misrata showed firefighters turning water hoses on a raging fire in a vain attempt to extinguish it.

Rebels notified Nato about the planes before the attack but there was no response, Mr Hassan said. Government forces flew at least one helicopter reconnaissance mission over Misrata last month, according to rebels. The loss of the oil is likely to be a significant development in the battle for control of Misrata, the only city in western Libya still in rebel hands.

There was also intense fighting along Libya's frontier with Tunisia yesterday, where the war again spilled over into Tunisian territory. Schools in the Tunisian border town of Dehiba were evacuated, and residents began to flee after pro-Gaddafi forces fired artillery shells into the area.

The violence follows an attack last week which resulted in growing tension between Libya and the new Tunisian government. Yesterday, 13 shells landed on the Tunisian side of the border. Libya's western mountain region, which borders Tunisia, has become a focus for the fighting, as other fronts in the civil war have stalled.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat