Less than 24 hours after an international coalition launched air attacks on his forces, Muammar Gaddafi, the longtime Libyan leader, responded pugnaciously, vowing to defeat foreigners who he said had no right to interfere in the North African nation's internal affairs.
In a roughly 15-minute address on Sunday, his second since the air raids began and during which he never appeared on screen, Gaddafi promised a "long war" that his forces would win. The promise to fight comes after Libyan foreign minister Musa Kousa responded to a United Nations resolution authorising force to protect civilians by promising to institute a cease fire.
"We will fight for every square in our land," Gaddafi said. "We will die as martyrs."
His words came as Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said that the no-fly zone had effectively been established - but that the military operation called for by the UN Security Council was not intended to remove Gaddafi from power.
Gaddafi, the de-facto leader of the country for more than four decades, declared that Libyan "people are behind me and ready for all-out war", and repeated his claim that his regime had "opened the depots" and distributed weapons among the populace.
He drew allusions to other US-led wars, including Vietnam, as well as the Crusades, saying that air attacks by French, US and British forces amounted to a "cold war" on Islam.
He also promised retribution against Libyans who sided with the foreign intervention.
"We will fight and we will target any traitor who is co-operating with the Americans or with the Christian Crusade," he said.
Gaddafi mentioned the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, as well as the bloody US intervention in Somalia and the ongoing campaign to capture or kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
All, he said, were examples of the kind of defeat the US was about to endure in Libya.
"You don't learn," he said. "You're always going to be destroyed."
The coalition against Gaddafi may include the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Conference, but the military assault has so far been a Western affair, featuring most prominently French, British and US hardware.
French jets fired the first shots of Operation Odyssey Dawn on Saturday, hitting regime tanks and armoured vehicles on the road to the west of Benghazi, the rebel stronghold and Libya''s second-largest city.
Destroyed military vehicles and at least a 14 dead fighters littered the road between Benghazi and Ajdabiya, witnesses said on Sunday. In the western city of Misurata, which regime forces have sieged for days, residents said snipers were positioned on rooftops in the centre of town, making people too afraid to walk in the streets.
US and British warships and submarines followed the French attack with a barrage of more than 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting more than 20 areas along Libya''s coast.
An unnamed US national security official said Libya''s air defences had been "severely disabled."
Odyssey Dawn is the largest military intervention in the Middle East since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The military strikes came more than a month after the outbreak of protests against Gaddafi's 41-year regime led to a crackdown that has left hundreds of civilians dead.
The United States appeared to give strong support to the effort only recently, after calls for help from the Arab League led the UN Security Council to act with rare speed and pass a resolution granting member states the authority to use force to protect civilians.
Many Libyans have expressed rage at the length of time it took for the international community to intercede on their behalf, while Russia and China - both permanent Security Council members who abstained from the vote - expressed "regret" at the military action on Sunday.
Libyan state television claimed that 48 people had been killed and 150 wounded during the attack and showed images of government officials visiting men in a hospital, but those reports could not be verified by independent media.
Several thousand people gathered to form a human shield at the Bab al-Azizia, a Gaddafi compound and headquarters in Tripoli that was bombed in 1986 by the US. But once word spread that cruise missiles were being fired in the the vicinity, all but a few dozen left, the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported.
In an audio message broadcast on state television a few hours after the air raids began, Gaddafi said that the UN-sanctioned military action had turned the Mediterranean and North Africa into a "battleground."
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies