Libyan rebels claimed successes Saturday on two key battle fronts, holding off pro-government forces from taking Zawiya near the nation’s capital and capturing the strategic eastern oil town of Ras Lanuf.

In the eastern city of Benghazi, witnesses said forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi pounded a weapons depot, a strike that caused casualties and widespread damage.

The strife engulfing the besieged North African nation is reverberating across the country, the region and the world. Death toll estimates range from more than 1,000 to as many as 2,000, and the international community has been pondering strategies on how to end the violence and remove the Gadhafi regime.

The government has been much-reviled across the globe for violence against civilians and the International Criminal Court this week launched an investigation of Gadhafi, some of his sons, and other leaders for possible crimes against humanity.

Zawiya has been contested in recent days, with rebels and government forces trying to gain full control of the city — sitting in the shadow of the nation’s power center about 30 miles west of the capital of Tripoli.

The pro-Gadhafi forces earlier withdrew from Zawiya’s Martyrs’ Square and returned to their positions on the outskirts of the city after intense clashes with rebels, according to a witness who is serving as a rebel spokesman.
He reported heavy gunfire and mortar shelling and saw the bodies of three slain opposition members carried in the square en route to burial.

The witness said pro-Gadhafi forces entered a residential area in the city and shot live ammunition and automatic weapons on residents in the streets. The sounds of automatic weapon fire and people yelling could be heard during a telephone interview with the witness.

CNN Wire Staff