Nato planes pounded Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces attacking the rebel-held city of Misrata, destroying armour advancing on the port that is the besieged city's sole lifeline.
The battle for Misrata has become the focal point of the uprising against Gaddafi's regime, and the near-constant shelling of the city by government troops over the past two months has spurred calls for more forceful international intervention to stop the bloodshed.
The alliance airstrike, which took place on Tuesday night, and sent giant plumes of smoke into the air, helped repulse Gaddafi's forces attack on the city's vital port complex.
"Nato forces moved quickly to break up a force advancing on Misrata port," a Nato spokeswoman said. "Several Nato aircraft were directed to the area, and following careful assessment of the risk to civilians, our pilots struck."
Damage assessments showed that six military vehicles and seven "technicals" - civilian trucks equipped with machine guns or rocket launchers - were hit. One surface-to-air missile site near Misrata was also destroyed, she said.
With Gaddafi's troops besieging the city on all sides by land, the port has become a key point in the battle for Misrata, and the assault by pro-Gaddafi forces temporarily suspended the flow of aid and people.
The Albanian passenger ferry Red Star 1, carrying aid and two ambulance,s was forced to spend the night at sea, before finally docking.
Workers unloaded its 10 containers of aid and prepared to take on refugees looking to flee the battered city.
The Libyan government has denied that it engages in indiscriminate shelling of civilian population centres.
The United Nations Security Council used evidence of attacks on civilians as grounds for its resolution authorising an international campaign of airstrikes against Gaddafi's forces which has neutralised much of their heavy weapons and staved off total rebel defeat in the east.