Western forces unleashed over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles on military targets in Tripoli and along the Mediterranean coast today and Libyan forces called for a new ceasefire, after a defiant Muammar Gaddafi had vowed to retaliate against western "aggression" and the "war on Islam".
Italy's airbases, meanwhile, saw Arab and Western warplanes converge in preparation to join the UN-authorized campaign in Libya, even as US joint chiefs of staff Admiral Mike Mullen warned of the possibility of a "stalemate" in the military operation.
His defiant self, Gaddafi called the allied nations bombing his country "terrorists" as at least 112 Tomahawk missiles were fired from US and British ships and submarines in Operation Odyssey Dawn (OOD), targeting some 20 air and missile defence targets in Tripoli and the city of Misurata.
The French defense ministry said four Qatari war planes were already deployed in Libyan skies today as other Arab warplanes were moving to positions near Libya to participate in the military operation that has effectively established a no-fly zone.
Aircraft from the UAE too were due to arrive at an Italian air base, already hosting four Spanish F-18 fighters. Turkey too said it was ready to contribute to the international action in Libya.
The Libyan military announced an immediate ceasefire today in its campaign against an uprising.
Military spokesman Milad Fokehi said the ceasefire had been decided following an African Union call for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
India and Russia came out against the strikes. India said it regrets the air strikes that are taking place and wanted measures to be taken to mitigate and not exacerbate the already difficult situation for the Libyan people.
Moscow pushed for an end to "indiscriminate use of force" by the US-led forces and said the intervention in Libya has been "adopted (by the UNSC) in haste".
The Arab League, which had earlier asked the United Nations to slap a no-fly zone on Libya, also criticized the Western military strikes.
"What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians," Arab League secretary general Amr Mussa said.
French jets fired the first shots in OOD, the biggest international military intervention in the Arab world since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, destroying tanks and armoured vehicles in eastern Libya, Al-Jazeera reported.
France deployed "more than 15 aircrafts" that took part in ground strikes today, and a military spokesman said the planes encountered no opposition in enforcing a no-fly zone.
France also sent its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to join the campaign.
Libyan state television said 48 civilians have been killed and 150 wounded as a result of this "aggression". It claimed most casualties were children but gave no details. There was no independent confirmation about the death toll.
BBC quoted UK Finance Minister George Osborne as saying that such claims should be treated with caution as the military was striving to avoid civilian casualties.
Heavy firing and explosion were heard in several parts of the Libyan capital.
Al-Jazeera quoted an unnamed US military officials as saying that "Gaddafi's air defence systems have been severely disabled. It's too soon to predict what he and his ground forces may do in response to today's strikes".
Despite the reverses, a defiant Gaddafi slammed the West for the "aggression", saying, "We will not leave our land and liberate it."
Warning that it will be a "long war", he said, "We will fight for every square in our land."
"We will die as martyrs," he said in his roughly 15-minute address, the second since the air raids began on Saturday after the UN Security Council gave its nod for 'no fly' zone over Libya to halt Gaddafi's air powers against rebels.
The Council move had come after international outrage over Gaddafi's forces pounding rebel-held positions including Benghazi, Misurata, Tobruk and Ajdabiya.
Claiming that the Libyan "people are behind him and ready for all-out war", Gaddafi threatened to throw open defence supplies to arm civilians to defend the country.
"It is now necessary to open the stores and arm all the masses with all types of weapons to defend the independence, unity and honour of Libya," 68-year-old Gaddafi said in his audio message broadcast.
He drew parallel to other US-led wars, including Vietnam, saying the air attacks by French, US and British forces amounted to a "war on Islam", Al Jazeera said.
US President Barack Obama said it had not been his first choice to authorize US participation in military strikes against the Gaddafi regime.
"Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun," Obama said from Brazil, where he has just begun a five-day visit through Latin America.
"This is not an outcome the US or any of our partners sought," Obama said.
Meanwhile, Libya has suspended cooperation with Europe on the issue of illegal immigration, Libyan State TV reported. It has also demanded an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the crisis.
Mohammad al-Zawi, the secretary-general of the Libyan parliament, said his country was facing a "barbaric" attack, and reiterated that Libyan forces had been observing a "ceasefire".
African Union has criticized the military operations and called for an "immediate stop" to air strikes, saying it rejects "any kind of foreign military intervention" in Libya.
"The situation in Libya demands urgent action so an African solution (can be found) to the very serious crisis which this sister nation is going through," said Mauritanian President Ould Abdel Aziz who is one of the AU panel members.
A solution must take into account "our desire that Libya's unity and territorial integrity be respected", he said.
Saif Al Islam Gaddafi, the son and close advisor of Libyan leader Gaddafi, remained defiant, saying: “The whole country is united against the armed militia and the terrorists."
"The Americans and other Western countries are supporting the terrorists and the armed militia. That's it," he was quoted as saying by the ABC news.
Saif-Al-Islam said he was surprised that Obama, whom he thought "a good man and friend of Arab world, is bombing Libya".
"So it was a big surprise that, finally, President Obama - we thought he's a good man and friend of Arab world - is bombing Libya,” he said.
A day after the bombing in Libya began, Obama held a conference call with his top national security team to discussed the progress of OOD.
Obama received a briefing from AFRICOM Commander General Carter Ham, on US military operations in Libya, besides those from National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and his Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, the White House said today.
Obama also discussed the diplomatic consultations taking place on the situation in Libya. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Defense Secretary Robert Gates also attended the conference call.
Coalition Forces Pound Libya, Gaddafi Vows Revenge
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