The battle for Tripoli looms.

BENGHAZI, Libya — Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces appeared to make little headway in a concerted assault on rebels in several cities around the country and in a sustained attack early Tuesday morning in the western city of Zawiyah.

With escalating hostilities bringing Libya closer to civil war, rebels appeared to hold the city after a night of fighting, fending off tanks and artillery vehicles, special forces and regular army troops, and, rebels said, fighter jets.

Rebel leaders in Libya said the latest attacks by Colonel Qaddafi’s supporters smacked of desperation, and that the failed assault on Zawiyah, a city with important oil resources just 30 miles from the capital, raised questions about the ability of the government to muster a serious challenge to the rebels’ growing power.

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