Both sides are claiming to have control of the town which is a vital road link between the Libyan capital and the Tunisian border. The oil refinery at Zawiya is where the Gaddafi forces get most of their fuel from. If it falls to the rebels then it will severely limit the ability to wage war and keep the economy moving.
The opposition forces have made big advances in recent days, but with desert fighting it is not always about territory, but more about manoeuvre and concentration of force.
There is a growing relisation that while Gaddafi’s forces can hold a static defence line, they are increasingly incapable of mounting counter offensives of any size other than local attacks.
The much criticised NATO airstrikes have bled him dry of mobile heavy weapons meaning the end is near for Gaddafi. I believe he will have something in reserve though for one final push. But even if he makes significant territorial gains Gaddafi will be unable to hold onto it.
Tripoli is becoming increasingly ringed in. With the rebel positions secure in the west and also pushing up from the south-west, Gaddafi’s power base is shrinking. The NATO blockade of the ports available to Gaddafi and strong rebel positions in eastern Libya mean that economically, territorially and politically Gaddafi is buggered.