The Libyan opposition based in Benghazi has formally expressed its readiness to receive foreign troops in order to protect civilians requiring humanitarian assistance.

Endorsing conditional “humanitarian intervention,” Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, the Benghazi-based spokesperson of Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC), has said that presence of foreign ground forces was permissible in order to safeguard a safe haven for civilians.

"Protecting civilians requires having safe passages to deliver humanitarian supplies," he said.

"If that [protecting civilians] does not come except through ground forces that will ensure this safe haven, then there is no harm in that at all." This is the first occasion when the TNC has formally expressed its readiness to receive foreign boots on the ground. Earlier, local opposition commanders in Misurata, citing extreme strife in Libya’s third largest city had made this request.

However, British Prime Minister David Cameron stressed on Thursday that NATO is not considering sending ground forces to Libya, though several European countries are sending military personnel to assist the opposition militia.

Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi have launched mortar attacks inside Misurata on Thursday. Recent fighting has already killed two foreign journalist Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington who were caught up in cross-fire in the city. Human Rights Watch said that bodies of the two journalists were to be shipped on Ionian Spirit, a passenger ferry that has been supplying humanitarian material for the Misurata’s embattled residents.

Notwithstanding the opposition’s request, the UN humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, has said that the situation at the moment did not warrant the presence of NATO troops to secure humanitarian supplies in the country.

"At the moment, we have an agreement with the European force and with NATO that should we reach a point where the utilisation of civilian assets becomes impossible because of the security situation, we, the UN, would call on them for support for military assets."

Meanwhile, Libyan state television said early on Thursday that seven people were killed and 18 injured when NATO forces struck the Khallat al-Farjan area of the capital Tripoli.

The Libyan state news agency, Jana has also accused NATO forces of intercepting a Libyan oil tanker. “NATO forces carried out a barbaric piracy operation against a Libyan oil tanker and used violence and terrorism against its crew, in violation of international norms and (U.N.) Security Council resolutions,” Jana said.

Al Jazeera Arabic is reporting that opposition forces have mounted an offensive and taken over the border post of Wazin on the Libya-Tunisia border. Eye witnesses said that about 100 Qadhafi-loyalists, who were apparently manning this post, have fled to Tunisian side in the face of the attack.

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