Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi were retreating Saturday after rebels recaptured the key eastern towns of Ajdabiya and Brega in their first significant victory since Western-led air strikes began a week ago.
US President Barack Obama said the international mission had saved countless innocents from a "bloodbath" threatened by Kadhafi, and the rebels thanked France for its role in the military blitz but said "outside forces" could now leave the country.
Ajdabiya was "100 percent in the hands of our forces," a rebel spokesman, Shamsiddin Abdulmollah, told reporters in the stronghold of Benghazi.
"Who is on the back foot are Kadhafi's forces because they no longer have air power and heavy weaponry available" after a week of bombing by coalition warplanes, he said.
Scene: In Benghazi, fierce defence of no-fly zone
Another spokesman, Ahmed Khalifa, said the rebels had captured at least 13 Kadhafi fighters who were being treated as prisoners of war.
A rebel fighter told AFP insurgents had retaken Brega also, and a journalist travelling with them confirmed seeing rebels in control of the centre of the oil town, and said government forces had completely withdrawn.
"We are in the centre of Brega," 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of Ajdabiya, Abdelsalam al-Maadani told AFP by telephone. "Kadhafi's forces are on the retreat."