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LIBYA: U.S. sends aid to border as clashes continue

March 4, 2011 | 10:30 am

The U.S. government sent two C-130 military transport planes loaded with supplies to Tunisia on Friday to aid humanitarian relief efforts across the border in Libya.

Each aircraft carried three pallets of aid supplies, including 2,000 blankets, 40 rolls of plastic sheeting and 9,600 10-liter water cans, according to a statement from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The supplies, enough for at least 2,000 people, will be managd by Tunisia's Red Crescent, the statement said.

The relief operation, dubbed "Odyssey Dawn," is designed to help those who have fled the Libyan violence, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told CNN.

The violence in Libya escalated Friday as pro-government forces took control of Zawiya, a city near Tripoli, according to state TV. One source told CNN 15 people had died and at least 200 more were injured.

A doctor at a hospital in Zawiya told CNN "there is a river of blood" where the wounded were being treated. He said the facility was running out of medical supplies.

Forces loyal to Moammar Kadafi also clashed Friday with opponents of the regime in the eastern city of Ras Lanuf, opposition fighters and commanders told CNN.

Roughly 200,000 people have fled the intensifying violence in Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration. The number of people trying to leave, however, has declined heavily as armed government forces have intensified their presence on the Tunisian border and on roads leading up to it, the United Nations refugee agency has noted.

A number of key congressional leaders have been pressuring the White House to establish a no-fly zone over parts of Libya to aid Kadafi's opponents and ease the humanitarian crisis. Kadadfi's "air defense systems are certainly old and it [should not be] a major challenge ... to impose a no-fly zone," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told CNN Friday.

--  Molly Hennessy-Fiske