Tripoli (Libya): Provoked by renewed daylight NATO bombing of his capital, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi raged against the alliance, screaming his message and daring Western forces to keep it up.

Gaddafi spoke in a telephone call that was piped through loudspeakers to a few thousand people demonstrating in Tripoli's Green Square on Friday, at the end of a day when NATO intensified bombing runs across the capital.

State television carried Gaddafi's message live, and then repeated it a few minutes later.

"NATO will be defeated," he yelled in a hoarse, agitated voice. "They will pull out in defeat."

The sound of automatic weapons being fired defiantly into the air echoed through the square for hours as carloads of pro-Gaddafi supporters many with children in tow crammed the streets leading to the plaza.

Although there was a large presence of police and soldiers in the square, many of those popping off rounds wore civilian clothes.

Protesters and foreign journalists in the capital said it was one of the biggest such demonstrations since airstrikes began.

"Everyone in Libya wants Col Gaddafi, not some traitors," Rajab Hamman, a 51-year-old engineer from Tripoli said. "These are the real, true Libyans," he said from the crowd.

Meanwhile, in east of Tripoli, Gaddafi's forces exchanged intense shelling with rebels who are slowly breaking the government siege on their western stronghold, the port city of Misrata.

Doctors at the Hikma hospital in Misrata said nine rebel fighters and a woman living near the battle were killed and 30 others were wounded.

Government casualties were not known. Barrages of artillery and grad rockets were landing on rebel lines as they continued trying to advance out of Misrata, 125 miles (200kilometres), east of the capital.

The heaviest shelling rained down between the towns of Dafniya and Zlitan, west of the Mediterranean port.

For weeks rebels had been bottled up in Misrata, one of a handful of toeholds they hold in western Libya. The eastern third of the country is under rebel control from their de facto capital, Benghazi.

As NATO warplanes began stepping up attacks on Libyan government forces, bases and ammunition depots in recent days, the rebels in Misrata used the distraction to start their push out of the city toward Tripoli.

Fighting has been intense along that front, with the rebels only able to advance about 20 miles (32 kilometers).

NATO attacked the Libyan capital at midday on Friday, pounding a target in the south of the city and sending a thick cloud of black smoke rising high into the air.

A series of explosions rumbled across other parts of the city as fighter jets could be heard flying overhead. Fire engines raced through the streets and sirens kept blaring.

(Agencies)