Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi launched a counter-offensive on rebels in the southwest on Sunday but were repulsed, after NATO warplanes blitzed military targets in the capital.
An AFP correspondent reported that rebels repelled an attack aimed at recapturing the desert hamlet of Gualish on the road to Tripoli which loyalist forces lost to the insurgents in fierce fighting earlier this month.
Rebels in Gualish said they had prevented regime forces from getting within a kilometre (less than a mile) of the hamlet, and that they had been sent reinforcements from Zintan, the main rebel base in western Libya.
Before launching their counter-attack, loyalist forces sent dozens of civilians into the hamlet to announce their imminent arrival, rebel witnesses told AFP.
An AFP correspondent within earshot reported that two hours of intense fighting then took place. In the capital itself, Gaddafi's compound again came under NATO air attack. "In Tripoli there were two command and control nodes, two surface-to-air missile launchers and one anti-aircraft gun (hit)," a NATO official said from the mission's headquarters in Naples, Italy.
An AFP reporter said two blasts occurred at 00:50 am (2250 GMT) in the area housing Gaddafi's residence, followed by more explosions in the eastern and southeastern suburbs.
A column of smoke was seen over Gaddafi's complex, which had been targeted by NATO warplanes on Saturday, when the transatlantic military alliance confirmed seven strikes and said they hit a military command node.
A NATO official in Brussels told AFP Saturday's strikes targeted the walls of the Gaddafi complex, hitting "guard towers because they were securing the command and control centre."
Gaddafi said in an audio message broadcast on state television late Saturday that the unrest in Libya since a popular uprising erupted in mid-February was a "colonial plot." He did not elaborate. He also denied accusations by international rights groups of a brutal suppression of dissent and allegations that his regime had killed thousands of protesters.
"They lie to you and say, 'Libya kills its people with bullets, that is why we have come to protect civilians'," Gaddafi said of the NATO air campaign mandated by the United Nations with the aim of protecting civilians in Libya. "Only eight people have been killed and an inquiry is under way to determine who killed them. There are no protests and no gunfire. Show us where the thousands of people (reportedly killed) are buried," Gaddafi said.
Meanwhile, Germany will lend Libya's rebel council 100 million euros ($143 million) for civil and humanitarian purposes, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Sunday.
Berlin has opposed the Western military intervention in Libya but has promised to help oust Muammar Gaddafi through peaceful methods and recognised Libya's rebel council as its sole legitimate representative.
"We have decided to provide the Libyan transition council with urgently needed funding for civil and humanitarian measures," Westerwelle said in a statement.