Libyan rebels launch a promised assault on a key gateway to Tripoli early Wednesday, attacking government positions just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the capital, an AFP correspondent reported.

Buoyed by controversial French arms drops and intensified NATO-led air strikes on the regime's frontline armour, the rebels launched an assault on the Gualich area, in the plains north of their enclave in the Nafusa mountains southwest of Tripoli.