European and US forces unleashed warplanes and cruise missiles against Muammar Gaddafi's troops in the biggest Western military intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Libyan state television said 48 people had been killed and 150 wounded in the allied air strikes. It also said there had been a fresh wave of strikes on Tripoli early on Sunday. There was no way to independently verify the claims.
CBS News on its website said on Sunday that 3 US B-2 stealth bombers had dropped 40 bombs on a 'major Libyan airfield' that was not further identified. A Pentagon spokesman said he had no information about such an attack.
French planes fired the first shots on Saturday in a campaign to force Gaddafi's troops to cease fire and end attacks on civilians. The warplanes destroyed tanks and armored vehicles in the region of the rebels' eastern stronghold, Benghazi. Hours later, US and British warships and submarines launched 110 Tomahawk missiles against air defenses around the capital Tripoli and the western city of Misrata, which has been besieged by Gaddafi's forces, US military officials said.
They said US forces and planes were working with Britain, France, Canada and Italy in operation 'Odyssey Dawn'. Gaddafi called it 'colonial, crusader' aggression.
'It is now necessary to open the stores and arm all the masses with all types of weapons to defend the independence, unity and honor of Libya,' he said in an audio message broadcast on state television hours after the strikes began.
Western air forces were expected to use the coming of daylight on Sunday assess what damage they had done. China and Russia, which abstained in the UN Security Council vote last week endorsing intervention, expressed regret at the military action. China's Foreign Ministry said it hoped the conflict would not lead to a greater loss of civilian life.
The strikes, launched from some 25 ships, including three US submarines, in the Mediterranean, followed a meeting in Paris of Western and Arab leaders backing the intervention.