- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 7, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libyan ruler Col. Moammar Gadhafi vowed to fight to the death in a defiant speech Tuesday after NATO military craft unleashed a ferocious series of daylight airstrikes on Tripoli.

In a phone call to Libyan state television station, Col. Gadhafi angrily denounced the rebels who rose up against him in mid-February, inspired by a wave of Arab uprisings.

“We will not kneel!” he shouted. “We will not surrender! We only have one choice — to the end! Death, victory — it does not matter! We are not surrendering!”

As he spoke, the sound of low-flying military craft could be heard whooshing through Tripoli again, and Col. Gadhafi quickly hung up.

Minutes later, five more explosions shook the capital as NATO apparently launched another round of strikes. Pro-Gadhafi loyalists also fired a round of gunfire into the air after his speech, which lasted about 10 minutes.

Col. Gadhafi last was seen in television footage showing him sitting with visiting South African President Jacob Zuma in late May.

Several structures in the Gadhafi compound were badly damaged in Tuesday’s strikes. Daylight NATO raids have been rare and signal an intensification of the alliance bid to drive Col. Gadhafi from power.

At least one man was killed.

NATO officials have warned for days that they were increasing the scope and intensity of their 2-month-old campaign to oust Col. Gadhafi after more than 40 years in power. The alliance is assisting a 4-month-old rebel insurgency that has seized swaths of eastern Libya and pockets in the regime’s stronghold in the west.

Ambulances, sirens blaring, could be heard racing through the city during the daylong raids that shook the ground and sent thundering sound waves across the capital. Some of the strikes targeted a military barracks near Col. Gadhafi’s sprawling central Tripoli compound, Libyan spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said. Others hit the compound itself.

Mr. Ibrahim told foreign reporters it was the heaviest day of shelling in the capital.

Col. Gadhafi’s phone call appeared to take state television by surprise, and the sound hastily was adjusted to make it louder.

Col. Gadhafi mostly has been in hiding since NATO strikes in April targeted one of his homes. Libyan officials said one of his sons, Saif al-Arab, and three of his grandchildren were killed.

“We are stronger than your weapons, than your planes. The voices of the Libyan people are stronger than the sounds of explosions,” he said, angrily calling the rebels who have risen up against him “bastards.”

The strikes began at about 11:30 a.m. local time (5:30 a.m. EDT) and continued through the day. Some landed in clusters of two and three booming explosions.

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