By Adam Tanner and Souhail Karam
RABAT (Reuters) - Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shelled an area on the outskirts of the city of Misrata on Friday, killing six people including three children, a rebel said.
The Libyan port, the North African country's third biggest city, has experienced some of the heaviest fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Gaddafi since an uprising began on February 16.
"There was shelling this morning and almost all of the day; it targeted a residential area on the outskirts of Misrata called Al Jazeera. Six people were killed including three sisters aged 2, 5 and 12 years old," rebel Saadoun said by telephone.
"This residential compound is northwest of Misrata and they attacked it with mortars and tanks."
He also said around 10 to 12 tanks had entered the city center on Friday evening around the area of Tripoli Street.
"They shelled for while then left. We had an encounter with snipers today and some were forced to leave the buildings. Some were killed and others fled," he said. "We do not have exact figures of their casualties but three of our fighters were killed." The report could not be verified independently.
Officials and rebels said on Friday aid organizations were able to deliver some supplies to Misrata.
"There is a fairly regular supply going into Misrata," Simon Brooks, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross operations in eastern Libya, told Reuters.
"But we are deeply concerned about the reports we are receiving about fighting in the city."
Casualties have overwhelmed the local medical clinic and prompted international concern about the safety of civilians.
"It is still difficult to get out of Misrata. The snipers are still hiding in buildings on Tripoli Street," rebel spokesman Sami said earlier when reached by satellite phone. "It is the main thoroughfare that takes you to the city center."
"We don't know how many of them remain. The rebels have so far killed 30 of them."
Rebels say they regained control of the port from government forces who seized it on Wednesday. The port is the city's lifeline for food and medical supplies, officials say.
The ICRC has asked the Libyan government for direct access to those suffering from the war. "This is being refused despite repeated efforts and dialogue with Tripoli," Brooks said.
Mustafa Gheriani, a rebel spokesman in Benghazi, said the Misrata port area was recaptured by the rebels but blockaded by Gaddafi naval forces on Thursday. He believed the naval forces had now pulled back and the rebels were trying to organize aid shipments by sea.
"Our main concern is Misrata and Zintan. They are under siege from many troops. They are starting to run short of basic needs," the spokesman said.
Residents say electricity, water and regular land and cell phone service to Misrata are not functioning. Reports from the city cannot be verified independently because Libyan authorities have prevented journalists from going there.
On Thursday, government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said the government was in total control of the city.
"Unfortunately, there is a hard core of violence. These people are al Qaeda affiliates, they are prepared to die, they want to die, because death for them is happiness, is paradise. They know they are going to die," he said.