Muammar Qaddafi set his sights on Benghazi as his forces moved into the gateway city of Ajdabiya, 100 miles (161 kilometers) from the rebel capital, and prospects faded for a NATO-led no-fly zone to stop their advance.
The embattled Libyan dictator, appearing with a small group of supporters on state-run television, vowed to fight rebel "rats" and said "we are going to destroy them." In Benghazi, hundreds of his opponents, watching the broadcast projected on the side of a building, jeered and threw shoes in disrespect, according to a live video feed shown by Al Jazeera television.
The Libyan army is "coming to secure Benghazi," state-run television said. Pro-Qaddafi forces attacked on two sides of Ajdabiya using airstrikes and artillery, forcing out-gunned rebels and civilians to flee ahead of troops in tanks and personnel carriers, the Associated Press reported. There were conflicting reports on who controlled the city after nightfall.