Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said all Libya’s people have been armed and are ready to fight a “long war” to defeat Western forces attacking his country, in a televised audio message on Sunday.
“We will not leave our land and we will liberate it,” he said. The television broadcast carried Gaddafi’s voice, without showing any images of him.
“All the Libyan people are united. The Libyan men and women have been given weapons and bombs … You will not advance, you will not step on this land,” said Gaddafi.
All the Libyan people are united. The Libyan men and women have been given weapons and bombs … You will not advance, you will not step on this landMuammar Gaddafi
“We promise you a long, drawn-out war with no limits,” said the Libyan leader, who was speaking on state television for a second straight day without appearing in front of camera.
“We are ready for a long war. You are not prepared for a long war in Libya. We are prepared. This is a very happy moment we are living.”
The leaders of Britain, France and the United States would “fall like Hitler … Mussolini,” he warned. “All tyrants fall under the pressure of the populist masses.”
“America, France, or Britain, the Christians that are in a pact against us today, they will not enjoy our oil … You are aggressors, you are animals,” said Gaddafi.
“We do not have to retreat from the battlefield because we are defending our land and our dignity,” said the Libyan strongman who has faced a month-long armed uprising focused in the east of the country.
Bombarded with missiles
Libyan state media said Western warplanes had bombed civilian targets in Tripoli, causing casualties. An army spokesman said strikes also hit fuel tanks feeding the rebel-held city of Misrata, east of Tripoli.
State television earlier said 48 people had been killed and 150 wounded in the air strikes. It also said there had been a fresh wave of strikes on Tripoli early on Sunday.
Meanwhile medics said at least 94 people were killed in an assault launched two days ago on the rebel-held Benghazi by forces loyal to Gaddafi.
French planes fired the first shots on Saturday in a campaign to force Gaddafi’s troops to cease fire and end attacks on civilians. The warplanes destroyed tanks and armoured vehicles near the rebels’ eastern stronghold, Benghazi.
Burned out military vehicles lined the main road into Benghazi on Sunday as the rebels advanced back towards the strategic town of Ajdabiyah they lost last week.
“This is all France … Today we came through and saw the road open,” said rebel fighter Tahir Sassi, surveying the scene.
U.S. and British warships and submarines launched 110 Tomahawk missiles overnight against air defenses around the capital Tripoli and the western city of Misrata, which has been besieged by Gaddafi’s forces, U.S. military officials said.
They said U.S. forces and planes were working with Britain, France, Canada and Italy in operation “Odyssey Dawn”. Denmark said it had four fighter planes ready to join in on Sunday and was awaiting U.S. instructions.
We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the worldUS President Barack Obama
After taking a cautious stance on armed intervention in Libya’s civil war, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the strikes citing the threat posed to civilians Gaddafi’s forces and a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone endorsed by Arab countries.
“We must be clear: actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced,” Obama told reporters while on an official visit to Brazil Saturday.
“We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world,” he said, stressing that Washington was acting in concert “with a broad coalition.”
But with nearly 100,000 U.S. troops fighting a protracted war in Afghanistan — and with Saturday’s missile strikes coming eight years to the day after the United States launched its war in Iraq — Obama made clear that operation “Odyssey Dawn” would not send U.S. troops to Libya.
“As I said yesterday, we will not — I repeat — we will not deploy any US troops on the ground,” he said.
Director of the U.S. joint staff, Admiral William Gortney, told reporters at the Pentagon that the cruise missiles “struck more than 20 integrated air defense systems and other air defense facilities ashore.”
“It’s a first phase of a multi-phase operation” to enforce the U.N. resolution and prevent the Libyan regime from using force “against its own people,” he said.
The missile strikes came despite skepticism in the U.S. military over the risks of intervention, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates repeatedly expressing caution.
But as rebel forces appeared on the verge of collapse and the Arab League came out in favor of a no-fly zone, the Obama administration opted to support joint military action first advocated by France and Britain.
The Pentagon has suggested the U.S. military will play a supporting role in operations, employing Tomahawk missiles, electronic jamming aircraft and other resources while European allies fly bombing missions over Libya.
Gortney said the United States and its allies are not yet enforcing a no-fly zone with aircraft patrolling the skies round-the-clock, but “we’re setting the conditions to be able to reach that state.”
The targets included surface-to-air missile sites as well as early warning radar and command-and-control communication centers.
China and Russia, which abstained in the U.N. Security Council vote last week endorsing intervention, expressed regret at the military action. China’s Foreign Ministry said it hoped the conflict would not lead to a greater loss of civilian life.
Gaddafi seen losing grip
It is our belief that if Mr. Gaddafi loses the capacity to enforce his will through vastly superior armed forces, he simply will not be able to sustain his grip on the countryCanadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
The strikes, launched from some 25 ships, including three U.S. submarines, in the Mediterranean, followed a meeting in Paris of Western and Arab leaders backing the intervention.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the allies had agreed to use “all necessary means, especially military” to enforce the Security Council resolution for an end to attacks on civilians.
“Colonel Gaddafi has made this happen,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters after the meeting. “We cannot allow the slaughter of civilians to continue.”
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested that outside powers hoped their intervention would be enough to turn the tide against Gaddafi and allow Libyans to force him out.
“It is our belief that if Mr. Gaddafi loses the capacity to enforce his will through vastly superior armed forces, he simply will not be able to sustain his grip on the country.”
But analysts have questioned what Western powers will do if the Libyan leader digs in, especially since they do not believe they would be satisfied with a de facto partition which left rebels in the east and Gaddafi running a rump state in the west.
One participant at the Paris meeting said Clinton and others had stressed Libya should not be split in two. And on Friday, President Barack Obama specifically called on Gaddafi’s forces to pull back from the western cities of Zawiyah and Misrata as well from the east.
“It’s going to be far less straightforward if Gaddafi starts to move troops into the cities, which is what he has been trying to do for the past 24 hours,” said Marko Papic at the STRATFOR global intelligence group.
“Once he does that it becomes a little bit more of an urban combat environment and at that point it’s going to be difficult to use air power from 15,000 feet to neutralize that.”
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