TRIPOLI (Agencies) - Unrest continued to grip Libya Wednesday as gunfire could be heard in the capital, Tripoli, while defecting army units and protesters reportedly held large swaths of the eastern half of the country, including the city of Benghazi. The opposition claimed to have also taken the city of Misrata, in the western half of the country after several days of fighting with government loyalists. The government of Moammar Gaddafi faces heavy international criticism for its violent crackdown on protests, which is believed to have killed hundreds of people in the past week. Protesters greeted an angry speech by the veteran leader with defiance. The BBCs Jon Leyne, in eastern Libya, says people there believe the government now controls just a few pockets of territory including parts of the capital Tripoli and the southern town of Sabha. After a week of upheaval, protesters backed by defecting army units are thought to have almost the entire eastern half of Libya under their control. At least 400 people have died in the uprising, although Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters in Rome a death toll of 1,000 was more credible. US President Barack Obama condemns violence in Libya and the United States is working with the United Nations in reviewing various options, including possible sanctions, a White House spokesman said on Wednesday. We continue to work with the UN, White House spokesman Jay Carney told a daily news briefing. A lot of options are under review sanctions, other options. He said it is up to the people of Libya to decide who their leader is and added that Obama strongly condemns the violence. Libyans reacted with anger and derision to Colonel Gaddafis defiant speech. They fear hes out to destroy the country before hes finally deposed. There are reports that some forces loyal to the Libyan leader, possibly foreign mercenaries, have attacked an airbase in the east of the country. But apart from that, hes lost complete control of this area, which is now patrolled by local militias. As well as Col Gaddafis interior minister, many senior generals have also defected, including General Mahmud, the commander here in the east and a veteran of the 1969 revolution. Col Gaddafis support is down to an inner core, but hes clearly not going to give up the fight. He spoke as Frances Total became the latest oil company to announce that it was suspending its operations in the North African nation. The Associated Press news agency reports that Gaddafi supporters and hired foreign mercenaries opened fire on the streets of Tripoli on Wednesday. A Libyan air force plane crashed near the eastern city of Benghazi after its crew bailed out because they refused to carry out orders to bomb the city, Libyas Quryna newspaper cited a military source as saying. Qurynas online version quoted the source, a colonel at an air base near Benghazi, as saying captain Attia Abdel Salem al Abdali and his number two Ali Omar Gaddafi bailed out of the Russian-made Sukhoi-22 plane and parachuted to earth. Meanwhile, European countries have been evacuating their citizens from Libya. France, Turkey and Russia are among the nations that have sent planes and frigates to pick up thousands of their stranded nationals. A UK warship, HMS Cumberland, has been sent to the Libyan coast ahead of a possible evacuation. The US, China and India are also making arrangements to rescue their citizens. One American who reached Vienna on a flight from Libya, Kathleen Burnett, said the scene at Tripoli airport was total chaos, adding: The airport was mobbed, you wouldnt believe the number of people. And a Briton airlifted out by the Portuguese told the BBC he knew of dozens who were trying to get to Tripoli airport but were too afraid because of the soldiers who are out on the streets looting and plundering. The UN Security Councils statement in New York late on Tuesday came amid reports that foreign mercenaries have been attacking civilians and warplanes bombing protesters. Its 15 members said the Libyan government should address the legitimate demands of the population, act with restraint, and respect human rights. European Union governments agreed on Wednesday to prepare the way for possible sanctions against Libya following Muammar Gaddafis violent suppression of anti-government protests. During a meeting of EU diplomats in Brussels, France and Germany pushed for the EUs 27 member states to adopt restrictive measures against Gaddafis rule, including possible travel restrictions, an arms embargo and asset freezes. The governments agreed to explore the measures and will decide at a later date when they might be imposed. Saudi King Abdullah returned home on Wednesday after a three-month medical absence and unveiled benefits for Saudis worth some $37 billion in an apparent bid to insulate the worlds top oil exporter from an Arab protest wave. The king, who had been convalescing in Morocco after back surgery in New York in November, stood as he descended from the plane in a special lift. He then took to a wheelchair. Hundreds of men in white robes performed a traditional Bedouin sword dance on carpets laid out at Riyadh airport for the return of the monarch, thought to be 87. Abdullah left his ailing octogenarian half-brother, Crown Prince Sultan, in charge during his absence. Saudi Arabia has so far escaped popular protests against poverty, corruption and oppression that have raged across the Arab world, toppling entrenched leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and even spreading to Bahrain, linked to the kingdom by a causeway.