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In a defiant speech on state TV, the Libyan president rejected demands that he relinquish power, as anti-government forces seized control in some areas.
Muammar Gaddafi told Libyan TV on Tuesday that he wanted to "die as a martyr" in Libya, even as leaders of a popular revolt seized control in some areas of the country and top officials resigned to protest bloody attacks on civilians.
Security forces and protesters clashed in Libya's capital, Tripoli, after the government announced a new crackdown and reportedly unleashed of fresh attacks by government jets in the capital. Witnesses told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that fighter jets had bombed portions of the city and that "mercenaries" were firing on civilians in the city.
At least 61 people were reportedly killed in the capital on Monday, witnesses told Al Jazeera. The news network's death toll calculation from days of violence stands close to 300. There are widespread reports that Gaddafi has unleashed foreign mercenaries on his people, in a desperate gamble to crush dissent.
But protesters said they had taken control of several important towns, including the eastern city of Benghazi, after days of bloody clashes with government forces. According to the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR), protesters are also in control of Sirte, Tobruk in the east, as well as Misrata, Khoms, Tarhounah, Zenten, Al-Zawiya and Zouara.
Jon Jensen, reporting by phone for GlobalPost from Sallum on the Egypt-Libya border on Tuesday, said that border guards had open the crossing to enable the sick and injured to enter Egypt.
The Egyptian military had set up a field hospital near the border crossing and was preparing for the worst.
He said the normally sleepy town of Sallum was bustling with activity, and Egyptian forces were allowing Egyptians and Libyans wounded in reportedly heavy fighting in the Eastern part of Libya to cross into Egypt.
Jensen spoke with several returnees who described a state of lawlessness with mainly anti-government forces in control and only pockets of fighters loyal to the regime.
"Everybody inside Libya has a gun. It's completely lawless," he quoted one as saying. "We're really happy to get back into Egypt because it's safer," said another, calling himself Ali Hussein. "There's no government [in Libya]."
The head of the hospital, Lt. Col. Raof Ezzat, told Jensen: "I prefer not to have to be ready but I'm expecting the worst."
Jensen said Egypt's Ministry of Health was also preparing for the worst, with 80 ambulances on call and 1,000 units of blood ready.
Libyan security forces are waging a bloody operation to keep Gaddafi in power after fighting, which began on Feb. 14, spread to Tripoli from Libya's oil-producing east. Gaddafi has ruled Libya for 41 years.
But his grip on power appears to faltering. Several Libyan ambassadors, including those to the U.S. and the U.N., have said that they are siding with protesters and have called for Gaddafi to quit. Fighter pilots have refused orders to fire on protesters and two reportedly defected Monday, flying their jets to Malta. And a group of Libyan army officers has issued a statement urging fellow soldiers to "join the people" and help remove Gaddafi.
The U.N. Security Council was holding a closed-door meeting on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Libya. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the council would discuss whether to establish a “no-fly zone” around the country to prevent mercenaries and arms from going to the government, Bloomberg reported.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said Tuesday that Libya's attacks on protesters may amount to crimes against humanity. In a statement, Pillay called for the immediate halt to human rights violations and denounced the reported use of machineguns, snipers and military planes against civilians, Reuters reported. "Widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity," said Pillay, a former United Nations war crimes judge.
In Tripoli, resident Adel Mohamed Saleh said in a live Al Jazeera broadcast late Monday: "Warplanes and helicopters are indiscriminately bombing one area after another. There are many, many dead. Anyone who moves, even if they are in their car, they will hit you."
Ali al-Essawi, who resigned Monday as Libyan ambassador to India, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that fighter jets had been used by the government to bomb civilians.
Calling the violence "a massacre," Essawi called on the United Nations to block Libyan airspace in order to "protect the people." He said foreigners had been hired to fight on behalf of the government.
"Now [the U.N. security council] needs to prove that they believe in human rights ... and to prove to us that they really have these principles in their hearts," he said.
Ali Aujali, the Libyan ambassador to the United States, has called for the Libyan leader's resignation, telling the Associated Press on Monday night that Gaddafi must step down and give Libyans a chance "to make their future."
Earlier, diplomats at Libya's U.N. mission sided with the revolt against Gaddafi and called on the Libyan army to help overthrow "the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi."
In a statement, the mission's deputy chief and other staff said they were serving the Libyan people, demanded "the removal of the regime immediately" and urged other Libyan embassies to follow suit.
Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said Gaddafi had started a "genocide against the Libyan people."
Late on Monday, A.H. Elimam, Libya's ambassador to Bangladesh, resigned to protest against the killing of his family members by government soldiers.
Two Libyan air force jets landed in Malta on Monday and their pilots have asked for political asylum. The pilots claimed to have defected after refusing to follow orders to attack civilians protesting in Benghazi in Libya.
The pilots, who said they were colonels in the Libyan air force, were being questioned by authorities. Meanwhile, a group of Libyan army officers has issued a statement urging fellow soldiers to "join the people" and help remove Muammar Gaddafi. The officers urged the rest of the Libyan army to march to Tripoli.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said Tuesday that the organization has halted Libya's participation in all Arab League sessions, Al Jazeera reported.
Earlier Tuesday, Gaddafi was shown on state TV in footage purported to have been taken in Tripoli, as though to prove he had not fled to Venezuela.
"I want to have some rest," the embattled Libyan leader told a reporter from outside a ruined building which Libyan television said was his house, CNN reported. "Because I was talking to the young man at Green Square, and I want to stay the night with them but then it started raining. I want to show them that I am in Tripoli, not in Venezuela. Don't believe those dogs in the media."
Green Square has been a focal point for pro-government demonstrators.
The turmoil in Libya also sent jitters through global financial markets Tuesday, pushing Asian and European shares prices sharply lower.
Global oil prices surged on Monday, prompting several international energy companies to remove their employees or shut down production in the oil-rich North African country.
All Libyan ports — including Zawia, Tripoli, Benghazi and Misurata — had been closed, traders in the country said.
Italian oil and gas company Eni SpA said Tuesday it had suspended some of its Libyan production, including the Greenstream pipeline that supplies about 10 percent of Italy's natural gas needs, according to the Wall Street Journal. Spanish oil company Repsol YPF said Tuesday it was suspending operations in the country.
China expressed concern Tuesday about the safety of Chinese citizens and businesses in Libya after one of its construction companies was reportedly looted and its workers run off by gunmen.