On Sunday morning, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi reacted to overnight air attacks on government forces by France, the UK and the US, in order to execute a UN-mandated no-fly zone, voted on Thursday night.
In a televised address he said Libya will fight a “long war”. He also said that foreigners have no right to interfere in Libya’s internal affairs and added that the air raids amount to terrorism.
“We have opened arms depots to equip people against aggressors,” said the Libyan leader.
The US and UK fired at least 110 missiles (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk) and following strikes by French planes, some 14 bodies were lying near destroyed vehicles near Benghazi, the rebel stronghold, Reuters news agency said.
US officials also said that at least 20 air-defence sites were hit by cruise missiles in the capital, Tripoli, and the western city of Misrata.
Libyan TV has broadcast footage saying it showed some of the 150 people wounded in the attacks. It also said that 48 people had been killed, but there was no independent confirmation of the deaths.
State TV said that to serve as human shields, hundreds of Col Gaddafi’s supporters have gathered at his Bab al-Aziziyah palace and the international airport.
According to the AFP news agency, bombs were dropped near the palace, which had also been attacked by the US in 1986.
On Saturday, the Western forces started their action when Libyan government forces attacked Benghazi, arguing that the rebels had broken the ceasefire.
At 1645 GMT a French plane fired the first shots against Libyan forces loyal to Col Gaddafi. A French military spokesman said the shots destroyed military vehicles.
Libyan claims to have shot down a French plane, which France denies.
A Pentagon official said that at least 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from US destroyers and submarine, while missiles were fired from a British submarine and Tornado jets, said the UK ministry of defence. (see map below, from bbcimg.co.uk)
In the meantime a naval blockade is being put in place against the north African nation.
“It’s a first phase of a multi-phase operation” to enforce the UN resolution, said US Navy Vice-Adm William E Gortney.
The African Union has urged all parties to stop fighting, as did Russia and China, who both abstained from the UN Security Council resolution 1973.
US president Barack Obama, currently in Latin America, said his country was taking “limited military action” as part of a “broad coalition”. He also repeated that no US ground troops would take part in the action.
“We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy,” he said.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “necessary, legal and right” to launch military action against Libya.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy said the international community was intervening in order to stop the “murderous madness” of Col Gaddafi.
“In Libya, the civilian population, which is demanding nothing more than the right to choose their own destiny, is in mortal danger,” he warned. “It is our duty to respond to their anguished appeal.”
Italy has offered the use of its military bases and Canada announced that it will send warplanes to the region.
The UN refugee agency said it is preparing to receive 200,000 refugees from Libya, as people head east in order to flee the attack by Col Gaddafi’s forces.
Col Gaddafi has been in power for 42 years and an uprising against him began last month.