(Updates with injured in second paragraph, rebel comment in final. See EXTRA and MET for more on the regional unrest.)
June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi launched their third assault in five days on Misrata, killing at least 18 rebels as rockets landed closer to the city than at any time in the past two weeks.
Several pickup trucks loaded with the bodies of rebel fighters streamed into the city and ambulances arrived at Misrata’s Hikma hospital with the wounded. In addition to the 18 dead, the hospital reported 55 injured as evening began.
Qaddafi followed the artillery bombardment with an infantry assault that was repulsed, rebel fighters said. The rebel units pushed 10 kilometers (6 miles) over the front line at the village of Dafniya, near the western outskirts of the city, said one of the fighters, Mohamed Khalid.
The attack on the rebel-held city came hours after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said it used U.K. Apache helicopters to strike army and communications targets of Qaddafi’s forces near Misrata overnight. The NATO operation followed a request yesterday for Apache support from the rebels.
“We managed to take two tanks -- we captured them, then blew them up,” Khalid said in an interview. He said his unit saw the bodies of several of Qaddafi’s soldiers who had been killed in the fighting.
--With assistance by Caroline Alexander in London. Editors: Heather Langan, Karl Maier, Andrew Atkinson, Tasneem Brogger
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