Explosions and anti-aircraft fire sounded in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, early Wednesday, hours after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi vowed to emerge victorious in the fight against rebels and international forces.
In his first public appearance in a week, Gadhafi told supporters at his compound in Tripoli that the country is ready for battle, whether it be long or short.
Libyan state television broadcast what it said was live video of Gadhafi speaking to the crowd. The Libyan leader denounced the international military attacks on his forces, calling the effort to enforce a no-fly zone over the country a crusade against Islam.
As coalition forces continued their operation, pro-Gadhafi forces escalated their attacks on rebel-held towns.
In the latest fighting, forces loyal to Gadhafi targeted the rebel-held cities of Misrata and Zintan with sniper attacks, tanks and artillery.
The coalition’s tactical commander, U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear, said Tuesday that intelligence reports confirm Gadhafi’s forces are attacking civilians in Misrata in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.
U.S. President Barack Obama has demanded that pro-government forces pull back from Misrata and a number of other cities.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC News Tuesday that coalition air strikes may have killed one of Gadhafi’s sons. She cited unconfirmed reports, adding the “evidence is not sufficient” to confirm his death.
Clinton also told ABC that people close to Gadhafi are reaching out to allies around the world to explore their “options” for the future.
Admiral Locklear said 13 nations have joined or are on their way to help coalition forces. He said he expects planes from Qatar – the only Arab country to provide aircraft – to be flying in the next few days.
The international coalition initially established the no-fly zone over the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. As more support comes in, the force plans to expand the zone a thousand kilometers to the west, to the capital, Tripoli.