At the White House today, President Barack Obama warned that Gadhafi's supporters "will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place," The Associated Press reported.
"We've got NATO consulting in Brussels around a wide range of potential options, including potential military options, in response to the violence that continues to take place in Libya," Obama said, the BBC reported. "We send a very clear message to the Libyan people that we will stand with them in the face of unwarranted violence and the continuing suppression of democratic ideals that we have seen there."
The U.N. is drafting a resolution to establish a no-fly zone over Libya, although there's no indication such a move -- widely seen as fraught with peril -- is imminent, CBS reported. The option is expected to be discussed Thursday when Defense Secretary Robert Gates meets with NATO defense ministers, the network said.
Gadhafi and the rebels are at such a standoff that Libyan political experts say the fighting, which escalated Sunday with airstrikes by Gadhafi forces in the towns of Bin Jawad and Ras Lanouf, is turning into a bloody civil war that may drag on for months.
"There is an acute shortage of medical supplies and medical personnel to help the high number of wounded. The youngest victim was a 2-year-old girl who died from a fatal gun wound. Most of the fatal wounds are to the head and chest."
But calls for help from rebels and their supporters were complicated by news of a botched, cloak-and-dagger mission to eastern Libya by armed British agents and Special Air Service forces trying to establish contacts with the rebels.
The eight MI-6 officers and SAS soldiers were detained two days by rebels and then deported Sunday in a mission approved by Foreign Secretary William Hague, The Guardian reported.
"They were withdrawn yesterday after a serious misunderstanding about their role which led to their detention," Hague told Parliament in London today.
Australia's ABC News said the rebels were annoyed that the British SAS entered the country in helicopters without warning in the middle of the night carrying "guns, explosives and passports of multiple nationalities."
Gadhafi's increasingly ferocious use of warplanes to crush the rebels hasn't intimidated them, because they say they will not even consider negotiating with him unless he cedes power.
At the same time, the protesters admit they can only fight Gadhafi's forces on the ground and are outgunned every time he uses air power.
What many want is a no-fly zone, though Gates said last week it would be tantamount to going to war. British officials warned today that the West has to be very careful not to play into Gadhafi's hands by instigating military intervention.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that a no-fly zone would be "an extraordinarily complex operation to set up.," Bloomberg News reported.
"We don't want a foreign military intervention, but we do want a no-fly zone," rebel fighter Ali Suleiman told the AP.
He added that the rebels can take on "the rockets and the tanks, but not Gadhafi's air force."
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and John Kerry, D-Mass., favor the no-fly zone. Kerry played down the complexity of a no-fly zone and suggested additional alternatives as well.
"That's actually not the only option for what one could do," said Kerry, who saw combat in Vietnam. "One could crater the airports and the runways and leave them incapable of using them for a period of time."
Mohamed Eljahmi, a Libyan-American activist in touch with the rebels, told AOL News today that the West needs to impose a no-fly zone and questioned why it hasn't.
"Secretary Gates' assertion that he opposes a no-fly zone because he fears for American lives is not believable, because Libyans in general feel that the Libyan army is weak and that Gadhafi's air defenses are either non-existent or very weak," Eljahmi said.
"The general feeling among Libyans is the West is waiting the conflict out, and this only helps Gadhafi. That the West's main concern is oil and paranoia about illegal immigration and al-Qaida, but there is little concern for loss of Libyan lives."
An Al-Jazeera correspondent reported this morning that the rebels in the town of Bin Jawad appeared to be "losing some of their momentum and were fading a bit."
Gadhafi is proving as determined as the rebels. He won't budge from his stance that al-Qaida is to blame for the unrest in Libya and that the international media have distorted the situation in the country. He denied that his forces are shooting protesters.
In an interview today with France 24, Gadhafi warned through an interpreter that without Libya, al-Qaida might not be so contained in the Middle East, and Europe could be overwhelmed with sub-Saharan African immigrants.
"There are millions of blacks who could come to the Mediterranean to cross to France and Italy, and Libya plays a role in security in the Mediterranean," he said.
The rebel National Libyan Council, which speaks for the eastern regions of the country it controls, said today it will talk with Gadhafi only if he agrees to leave.
"We have made it clear all along that any negotiations must be on the basis that Gadhafi will step down," rebel official Ahmed Jabreel told Reuters. "There can be no other compromise."