Kweildi al-Hamdi (left in white) and his son Hamed, carrying the body of his two-year-old son who was killed in a NATO air strike on Monday, at the victims' funeral on Wednesday
A few days after NATO air strikes on residential buildings, Sunday and Monday, that, according to Libyan government sources, between them killed around 30 civilians, Libyan leader Muammar Al Qathafi has accused NATO states of murder after members of the family and those of a close aide were killed in the air strikes.
In an audio tape broadcast on Libyan state television on Wednesday night, in homage to his comrade Kweildi al-Hamidi, several members of whose family were killed on Monday in Nato raids on his residence, Al Qathafi called those who carried out the bombardment as "criminals" and "barbarians."
"We will resist and the battle will continue to the beyond, until you're wiped out. But we will not be finished," he added.
"You said, 'we hit our targets with precision', you murderers ... One day we will respond to you likewise and your homes will be legitimate targets," Al Qathafi went on to say.
Referring to the June 19 strike specifically, a defiant Al Qathafi called the NATO campaign a "crusade" against a Muslim country. "We will stay, we will resist and we will not give in. Strike with your missiles, two, three, 10 or 100 years," he said.
He said: "There's no longer any agreement after you killed our children and our grandchildren... We have our backs to the wall. You (the West) can move back," he added.
"We are not frightened. We are not trying to live or escape," Al Qathafi said, denouncing what we called a crusade against a Muslim country targeting civilians and children.
He said the battle would "continue to the beyond, until you are wiped out". Libyans would fight "foreign barbarians" and "crusaders" to the death, he said, adding: “The devil, would be ashamed of the lies and allegations being made by Libya's enemies.”
He talked at length on NATO's air strike on Monday that destroyed the house of his close friend and top official, Kweildi al-Hamidi, in Surman and killed members of his family, including two of his grandchildren, and their mother, his daughter-in-law.
NATO said it regretted any civilian deaths, but that the targeted residence on Monday was a "command and control centre".
Referring to this statement, and that NATO's surveillance had provided conclusive proof that the attack was on a legitimate military target, as the house was a command centre, he said that if the intelligence had been so good, surely NATO would have known that children were living there.
"You said: 'We hit our targets with precision.' You murderers!" he said. "One day we will respond to you likewise and your homes, sons and children may become one day legitimate targets."
Al Qathafi also called on the UN Security Council other than "the three criminals" (the US, UK and France) to send a mission to investigate the deaths of civilians in air strikes.
Just hours before Al Qathafi's speech, the city of Surman, an hour's drive west of Tripoli, Kweildi al-Hamidi, accompanied by members of his remaining family, took part in a funeral for the victims. Alongside him was his son Hamed, mourning his pregnant wife, a two-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter.
Civilian deaths have raised serious misgivings about the UN-authorised NATO intervention in Libya among the most ardent supporters of the ongoing air campaign, including Italy, with its foreign minister Franco Frattini telling members of parliament on Wednesday that the suspension of military operations in Libya was "essential" for immediate humanitarian aid.
Frattini called for urgent humanitarian aid to be delivered to trapped residents in cities like Tripoli and Misurata. He said the people in those areas faced a "dramatic" humanitarian situation and added that a suspension of hostilities would also avoid "consolidating a division of Libya" between east and west.
"This is clearly not part of NATO's mission," he said.
Earlier in the week he warned that NATO's accidental killing of civilians in an air strike was endangering the alliance's credibility in the eyes of the world, and hoped that the European Council in Brussels on Thursday would highlight an end to the fighting in Libya as "a practical solution".
The outgoing head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa joined Frattini in calling for a halt to hostilities in Libya. Moussa also called for a political solution to the crisis.
But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to be well satisfied with the way the conflict is turning out. She said there was no doubt that Al Qathafi's men had "their backs against the wall.," and claimed that Libya's opposition was making very clear progress on the ground in Libya.
France too expressed a similar view, saying the military operations should be "intensified", with French foreign ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero saying that any pause in operations would risk allowing Al Qathafi to play for time and to reorganise. “In the end, it would be the civilian population that would suffer from the smallest sign of weakness on our behalf," Bernard Valero said.
Meanwhile, bombing by NATO warplanes resumed Wednesday night targeting a government ammunition depot near the city of Zintan, it was reported, and an Al Jazeera correspondent, James Bays reporting saying, that everyone talks about stalemate in Libya, but actually quietly there's been some very steady progress here in the Nafusa Mountains in the western part of Libya.
He went on to say that NATO appears to be realising that the opposition has very slowly pressed forward, taking villages, and towns.
NATO general secretary, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also confirmed that the alliance would continue its operations in Libya. "NATO will continue this mission because if we stop, countless more civilians could lose their lives," Rasmussen said in a video statement on the NATO website.
Referring to the fact that recent air strikes have caused civilian deaths, he said: "Since the start of this mission we have conducted over 5,000 strikes sorties, and as our record shows we have taken utmost care to minimise the risk of civilian casualties and we continue to do that every day and every hour. I deeply regret any loss of life in this conflict."