Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has again insisted his forces will prevail against rebels, who are now supported by western powers.

Gaddafi made his bombastic claims on live television, while reports emerged of his forces terrorising civilians.

The country’s leader of 41 years labelled his international opponents “fascists”, calling the conflict an “historic battle” against “unjust aggression”.

US President Barack Obama has ruled out a land invasion of Libya. But the American military warned it was considering all options in response to dire conditions for residents of the coastal area of Misratah.

People there say they have been left cowering in darkened homes and scrounging for food and rainwater.

A doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals if the city falls to Col Gaddafi’s troops, said tanks had opened fire on a peaceful protest.

“The number of dead are too many for our hospital to handle,” he said.

“As for food, we share what we find and if we don’t find anything, which happens, we don’t know what to do.”

But in another bellicose plea, Col Gaddafi told a cheering crowd that their country was “ready for this battle, be it long or short”.

“All those free should take part in this battle,” he said.

“Those that are against you are just a handful of crazed people, a handful of Fascists.”