The world according to Muammar Qaddafi: Libyan rebels are like "Al-Qaeda in Gaza. It’s the same thing here! We have small armed groups who are fighting us,” he told France24 television in an interview.

The eccentric dictator, at war with rebels who are trying to end his 41-year-old regime, compared his assault against opposition forces with Israel’s Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign two years ago. “Even the Israelis in Gaza, when they moved into the Gaza strip, they moved in with tanks to fight such extremists,” he said.

Qaddafi has charged that former prisoners at the American prison at Guantanamo Bay actually were part of Al-Qaeda cells that have fostered unrest in Libya by placing drugs in coffee drunk by youth.

He claimed in his interview that no more than 200 people have been killed in clashes with rebels. Most observers have placed the death toll in the thousands, many of whom were massacred by Qaddafi’s soldier and paid mercenaries.

Although U.S. President Barack Obama has joined world leaders in demanding that he step down, Qaddafi insisted, “Libya has very good relations with the United States, with the European Union and with African countries, and Libya plays a crucial role in regional and world peace.”  

As he spoke, loyalist manned tanks, helicopters and warplanes to attack rebels, who until Sunday were threatening Qaddafi’s stronghold in the capital of Tripoli.

The battle is shaping up to be a drawn-out affair, with Qaddafi’s well-armed and well-trained military pitted against massive but unorganized opposition forces.