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Allied Air Strike Destroys Gadhafi Compound; Anti-Aircraft Fire Over Tripoli; U.S., France, Great Britain Roles in Operation Odyssey Dawn

Aired March 20, 2011 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Moammar Gadhafi's compound attacked. (INAUDIBLE). The likely weapons, missiles from ally firepower. CNN's Nic Robertson seeing it up close, but even after the brutal dictator's military promises a second cease-fire, the rebel crackdown intensifies. Who targeted and blasted the strong man's headquarters. Where is he? Why hasn't he been seen?

I'm Don Lemon in the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta. We begin this hour with breaking news.

Destroyed part of Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Libya's capital of Tripoli. An allied airstrike took out the building on the ground. A coalition official says it was hit because it had military capabilities insisting that Gadhafi was not the actual target and neither was his residence. It's not clear where he is right now.

That is anti-aircraft fire lighting up the night sky over Tripoli. Coalition forces continue to pound key targets despite the Libyan army announcing another cease-fire several hours ago. The White House doesn't believe Libyan forces will abide bite. After all, they did ignore the first cease-fire declared on Friday. And Joint Chief Chairman Mike Mullen says the U.N.'s no-fly zone is now in place. Allied air strikes have done major damage to Libya's fixed air defense systems, that's according to another U.S. official.

Coalition planes are now patrolling the area to deter air attacks on civilians. The U.S., France, and Great Britain have taken big roles in operation "Odyssey Dawn." Italy, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Qatar also involved.

Our very own Nic Robertson broke the news of the attack on Gadhafi's compound, and we want to play what he and his crew captured on videotape without talking over it, and Nic will update us on the other side. Take a look.

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LEMON: Just remarkable pictures from CNN's Nic Robertson. Let's go to him now -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Don, we were taken into Moammar Gadhafi's palace compound, a large secure area, a couple of square miles. We were taken to a building. We could see the roof had been smashed, two big holes punched in it. We were told by cruise missiles. In fact, we were given some parts that were taken out of a building while we were there. This is a thin control system actuator, appears to be from a cruise missile that was pulled out of the building while we were there.

The whole roof was pancaked down two floors. It was a four-story building. We were told that one of the missiles had gone in and only exploded when it hit the basement area. The rooms that we could see blown were out. There were large lumps of concrete blown over an area. We have about 100 yards or so. The government official told us that there had been no casualties there.

The government official said what is happening, he quoted, pentagon spokesman saying that "there will be no strikes in this Moammar Gadhafi's palace compound." We were told that this was a building that was used by officials coming to meet Moammar Gadhafi in a nearby tent. From what we could see, the building didn't serve any other purpose, certainly, didn't seem to be a sort of command and control- type building.

We didn't see any cables coming from it, antennas on it. Indeed, a couple of journalists we talked to said that they'd been in there a few days earlier waiting to meet Moammar Gadhafi. The building is also very heavily damaged, debris spread over a wide area. Government officials very angry about the inconsistencies they say coming from the Pentagon -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much for that, Nicholas.

Get a prospective now on an experienced -- from an experienced U.S. military leader, Ret. Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, and he's a contributor to CNN, as well. You are no stranger to this sort of conflict. What do you make of the latest developments?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, based on Nic's recent report and having go and seen it, the actual target of the command in control, may be ten stories underneath the ground. And the intent of its target was to get after it, cut the power off, go into it, all actually get that missile for and up in there. I would suspect, I haven't been in the building, but based on what Nic said, it is most likely that was command in control eight to 10 stories below ground underneath that building.

LEMON: And just a short time ago, our conversation was cut short because we had to get to the top of the hour here, but you were saying that you believe that the international community acted slowly on this, and we should have seen, not necessarily this type of action, but some action from the international community sooner.

HONORE: Wish that could have happened. I think we could have saved a lot of Libyan lives, and Gadhafi, gave him time to get his forces together to push toward Benghazi. Have we done this two or three weeks ago with more people on the street, probably would have had an easier time of it than and gave him some time to get prepared for what he initially did which was to push an assault on Benghazi. That being said now that the conditions are set for no-fly zone. We just got to cut his logistics and continue to degrade his military that come out to fight.

LEMON: General, thank you very much.

President Barack Obama is monitoring the Libya's situation tonight from Brazil, the first stop on his five-day Latin-American tour. And when he spoke in Rio de Janeiro today, he didn't get into the specifics of U.S. involvement in operation "Odyssey Dawn," but our Ed Henry is traveling with the president, and he says there's much more going on behind the scenes -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don, some new information tonight. The White House National Security advisor, Tom Donilon, for the first time saying that the president is planning to have the U.S. have a lead role in the bombing campaign for just days, not weeks and then the enforcement of the no-fly zone would be handed over to NATO allies. Now, that's significant because another senior U.S. official in private telling me that basically, the bombing campaign is ongoing, as in it's going to continue and could intensify in the hours ahead.

That could be significant because then the U.S. could pour it on in the next couple of days, and then, hand it off to NATO allies. Now, this coming as the president launches a ferocious behind the scenes campaign to shore up Arab support for the mission. The president we're told personally called King Abdullah of Jordan to shore up Arab support for the mission while other officials reached out to the Arab league to allay their concerns that maybe this mission was going far afield.

U.S. officials insisting to the Arab league in private that this is all complying with the U.N. resolution that basically all the U.S. and its allies are trying to do is protect civilians by taking out some of Gadhafi's air defenses. White House also scoffing tonight at Col. Gadhafi's claim that the cease-fire is taking hold. Tom Donilon, and the national security advisors saying that it's either untrue or was immediately violated.

The White House also pushing back on Republicans like Speaker John Boehner who say the president has not been clear enough about the mission. Donilon and others insisting this is a tightly focused mission on protecting civilians. That leaves the door open, though, to Gadhafi staying in power if the bombing campaign does not knock him out.

And now finally, White House aide saying that the president has been deeply and personally involved in the planning as well as the execution of all this military strategy, the president getting frequent briefings here in Latin-America. In fact, on Monday morning, he's going to have a secure conference call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top officials. The White House clearly trying to portray the image of a commander in chief firmly in control even as he's on the road -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Ed Henry traveling with the president, appreciate it.

The U.S. is not alone in enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya. We'll have a look at the efforts from other countries in the coalition.

Plus, confusion today over the Arab league support for the operation. We'll sort things out. Straight ahead.

And you have a voice in this show, so go to CNN.com/Don to view our stories or to leave a comment, and you can also reach out to me on Twitter @DonLemonCNN and also on Facebook and foursquare.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: From the very beginning, Britain and France have been far more enthusiastic about the no-fly zone than the U.S. Now that it's in place, they're being asked to step up their contributions as the U.S. tries to assume a limited role. Our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, join us now from London in our London Bureau with more on the UK's contribution -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, thanks very much. Well, within the past few hours, it's been confirmed by the British Ministry of Defense British, the British armed forces have again been in action over Libya saying that they've been launching guided tomahawk cruise missiles at various targets against Libyan air defense systems. They say they're continuing these operations and support of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, along with, of course, the French who have also been carrying sorties as well.

Although, the French foreign ministry says they didn't open fire at any stage throughout the course of decision because they didn't encounter any resistance. There's been some very high level meetings in Britain, of course, to assess the impact of the previous night's bombing raids to look at the political issues, as well. One of the main political issues has been that declaration of a cease-fire by Col. Gadhafi, number 10 downing street.

The headquarters of, of course, the British prime minister released a press release in response to that saying that, again, Col. Gadhafi will be judged on his actions, not on his words. it's The judgment of the British, at the moment, that his obligations have not been met under those United Nations Security Council resolutions.

LEMON: Is it a judgment of the government that Gadhafi should step down? Are they asking him to step down?

CHANCE: No, they're not. It's interesting, isn't it? Because we saw this incident this evening with the attack on Col. Gadhafi's compound, but here in London, the British government have been very clear about, you know, what the limits of this operation are earlier, the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, put it in his own words.

Probably, not got the sound of the British foreign secretary. Basically, he was saying that, you know, the U.N. resolution made it very clear this is merely to enforce a no-fly zone. It's not a resolution to topple Col. Gadhafi, but with these events in Tripoli and this attack apparently by cruise missiles on the Col. Gadhafi compound, it's sort of intention with that state and objective by the British government.

LEMON: Matthew Chance in London. Thank you very much for that, Matthew.

And ahead, a unique perspective on the future of Libya. We'll be joined by a Libyan-American who has relatives and friends still in the country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Let's check your headlines right now on CNN. A coalition air strike destroyed a building within Moammar Gadhafi's compound. A coalition official says it was hit because it had military capabilities insisting that Gadhafi was not the actual target and neither was his residence. Not clear where Gadhafi is right now. Coalition planes are patrolling a no-fly zone over Libya to deter attacks on civilians.

In Japan, a grandmother and teenage grandson were rescued on Sunday nine days after a devastating earthquake and tsunami. They survived with the food in their refrigerator. The boy climbed to the roof where rescuers spotted him.

And across Northeastern Japan, Japanese officials have put the death toll now at 8,450. Nearly 13,000 people are still missing.

At the crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, electricity has been restored to the water pumps at reactors 5 and 6. Workers hope to have water pumps running again soon at reactor number 2.

In a speech in Rio de Janeiro today, President Barack Obama made only a brief reference to the coalition attacks in Libya. He called the rebels courageous, and he said, they're taking a stand against a regime determined to brutalize its own people.

Back in the United States, Republican House Speaker John Boehner issued a sharply worded statement calling on Mr. Obama to offer more details on U.S. military goals in Libya.

And in Wisconsin, the tragic death of a police officer today killed in the line of duty. It happened following a dramatic shootout in Fond du Lac. Police say a gunman opened fire on officers investigating an assault. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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LEMON (voice-over): Heavily armed S.W.A.T. team members had to rescue a woman from the shooting. When the barrage ended, two officers had been shot. One of them later died. The other is reported to be in critical condition. Police found the gunman dead inside his home of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Well, Ali Gebril is a Libyan-American. His relatives and friends still living there, and for Gebril, what's happening in his homeland now is very personal. Welcome back to CNN. We were speaking earlier about the situation. I was talking to retired Gen, Russel Honore, and he said many believe that the international community should have gotten involved sooner, is that your belief?

ALI GEBRIL, LIBYAN-AMERICAN: Many people shared that view, but we have to understand that to put up a campaign of this magnitude, to be effective, takes time. Given all the logistics and also the political measures needed and all the -- so, it takes time. Of course, some people thought that if it was earlier, it would be better, but we are here now.

LEMON: Yes. OK. I want you to take a look at this. We're going to show a Libyan television, a live broadcast that what's happening there. It doesn't portray the conflict. It doesn't show Moammar Gadhafi's compound being hit by missiles. It is propaganda, you believe?

GERBIL: Showing his last leisure and big festivity, celebrating his 40th years of being in power and he put all this extravaganza, magnificent grand festival, and he spent billions of dollars to show that.

LEMON: Are people watching this? Do they just tune it out?

GEBRIL: People are trying to watch BBC, Al Jazeera and other stations.

LEMON: And in CNN.

GEBRIL: And CNN if they can. They know what the Libyan TV is showing.

LEMON: Yes. Let's talk now about Mohammed Nabous. You spoke to his family. A 27-year-old who lost his life by sniper fire.

GEBRIL: Yes.

LEMON: And he broadcast risked his life and ended up losing his life to bring that images to the world.

GEBRIL: I think his story speaks the whole story. He was a toddler when Ronald Reagan strike, simply trying to -- try to kill Gadhafi and he survived. Twenty-five years later, that toddler, that young boy had to lose his life again fighting Gadhafi. We're trying to lift the toddler's -- generation of today to wait another 25 years to fight another against Gadhafi or one of his sons. So this mission, we are invading (ph) important and very critical junction.

LEMON: How is his family doing? What are they saying to you?

GEBRIL: They're OK. They're surviving, and they're OK. They're optimistic. They're concerned, of course, like everybody else but the morals are high of the people.

LEMON: And how are your spirits and your friends and family back home? GEBRIL: We pray for their safety, but we pray for that beautiful day that Libya is free.

LEMON: Yes. You mentioned the last time we spoke, very disturbing. You said there's a genocide going on in Libya. Talk to me about that.

GEBRIL: Many cities like Zawiya and your correspondents have been witness of what Gadhafi did, launching rocket barrage on a residential area using tanks, using all kinds of weapons. Inflicting casualties even inside hospitals, killing patients in hospitals and just firing all this heavy arms indiscriminately.

LEMON: And I have to tell you, to be very honest here, we, here at CNN, have been trying to get through to Misurata for 24 hours, can't get through.

GEBRIL: You can't get through. I spoke with a friend of mine who spoke with his brother who was in the battle, and he was hearing the voices of the soldiers -- of the fighters, freedom fighters, and he was able to hear the tanks firing and he told his brother, maybe this is the last time we speak, so forgive me. That's Misurata. Misurata is undergoing heavy fire.

LEMON: Yes. Sounds like the same conversation with Mohammed Nabous.

GEBRIL: Looks like it is.

LEMON: Thank you again.

GEBRIL: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: We appreciate it.

Straight ahead here on CNN, the high-tech hardware being used to strike at Libyan air defenses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (voice-over): We're going to take a closer look at how they work and the price tag for the no-fly zone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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LEMON (on-camera): Welcome back, everyone. Lying in ruins, part of Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Libya's capital Tripoli. An allied air strike took out a building on the ground. A coalition officials says it was hit because it had military capabilities, and they insist that Gadhafi was not the actual target, and they say neither was his residence. It's not clear where Gadhafi is at this hour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON (voice-over): This is becoming a familiar sight and sound right now. Anti-aircraft fired lighting up the night sky over Tripoli. Coalition forces continue to pound key targets despite the Libyan army announcing another cease-fire just several hours ago. The White House doesn't believe Libyan forces will abide by it. They did ignore the first cease-fire declared on Friday.

And the joint chiefs chairman, Michael Mullen, says the U.N. no-fly zone is now in place. It needs a little tweaking, but it is now in place. An allied air strikes have done "major damage," that a quote, "major damage" to Libya's fixed air defense systems according to another U.S. official.

Coalition planes are now patrolling the area to defer air strikes on civilians. The U.S., France, and Great Britain have taken big roles in operation "Odyssey Dawn." Italy, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and Qatar are also involved in this mission.

Coalition forces have a wide array of weapons to use in this campaign. And CNN's Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence describes the tactics behind the opening salvos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. and British forces launched the first Tomahawk Missiles from ships and submarines in the Mediterranean Sea.

Why shoot from there? Because in the western part of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi had surface to air missiles that could reach up to 180 miles off shore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of them are on or near the coast, a fact which made their destruction vital to the enforcement of a no-fly zone.

LAWRENCE: American Tomahawk Missiles can be reprogrammed in flight. If there was a risk of civilian casualty, operators could change the target after launch.

But the Navy did not use that ability, confident it was aiming at military targets.

Moammar Gadhafi says the strikes killed civilians. But a defense official told us if you don't have to reprogram your missile, you're pretty confident in what you're hitting?

MULLEN: The initial operations have been very effective, taken out his -- most of his air defense system, some of his air fields.

LAWRENCE: By Sunday, it was safe enough for the planes to fly: U.S. jump jets that can take off vertically, B-2 bombers and fighter jets. These are more mobile and went after Gadhafi's ground forces, firing on tanks and even infantry units to force them back from Benghazi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they are moving and advancing to the opposition forces in Libya, yes, we will take them under attack.

LAWRENCE: according to one estimate, enforcing a full no-fly zone across the country, that could cost up to 300 million dollars a week. A limited no-fly zone over northern Libya perhaps less than 100 million dollars a week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a vast amount of airspace.

LAWRENCE: So the decision was made to consecrate on northern Libya in an area that stretches from Benghazi to the capitol of Tripoli. Even though smoke was seen near Gadhafi's headquarters Sunday night, U.S. military officials say there is no mission to take out one man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going after Gadhafi.

LAWRENCE: Admiral Bill Gortney told us if Gadhafi happens to be at a place they're targeting, say inspecting a surface to air missile site, the military wouldn't necessarily know he was there.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: And Libya's had little time for grieving as the war continues to rage on. For now, healing the wounded is a big priority. It's also a huge challenge as supplies run short at many hospitals.

So Dr. Mahmoud Traina recently returned home to California after treating victims in Libya. Dr. Traina joins us now live.

Thank you again for joining us. How are doctors coping with the shortages there?

DR. MAHMOUD TRAINA, CARDIOLOGIST: They're having a real difficult time. I spoke actually just a couple of days ago to some colleagues in Misrata who were telling me that they are unbelievably shorthanded in terms of both supplies and medications, and they're doing things that they never imagined they'd be doing before, performing amputations, performing surgeries that they've really never done before.

LEMON: Are lives being lost because there aren't enough supplies?

TRAINA: I think -- I think so. I think lives are being jeopardized. People are ending up in worse situations than they need to be, both because there's of lack of supplies and also there's just a lack of the proper staffing, especially in cities like Misrata, where there's been, you know, no support being able to get in for the last month.

LEMON: Doctor, are you looking to the coalition to begin providing medical supplies to Libya?

TRAINA: I think so.

I think there's going to be a need for supplies, especially in the smaller towns where there's been a lot of casualties, like -- from what I've heard in Ras Lanuf and Brega, and things -- to update some of their -- primarily their heavier surgical supplies that are going to be needed to be assisted in and replaced.

LEMON: Were there shortages?

TRAINA: -- west, which we don't know.

LEMON: Were there shortages before the war? Or are the problems now strictly because of the conflict, doctor?

TRAINA: You know, the medical system in Libya was really one of the other areas that have been severely affected by Gadhafi's regime, and has been -- has not been handled well. It was really suffering.

So there were shortages in terms of both proper training and proper staffing in the hospitals. But in terms of actual medical supplies, there weren't a lot of shortages prior to this conflict. But it was primarily that they just didn't have the capabilities to deal with all the injuries and trauma that they had.

LEMON: When you were there recently, where were you? I know you have a child that is going to be born in about three weeks. Your wife is pregnant. Where were you recently? If you could go back, where would you go to first?

TRAINA: I was based in Benghazi. They stationed me in al Hawari Hospital. I think if I could go back, if I got to get back to anywhere, I would think I would love to go to Misrata, where there is the most need for help at this time, because, again, they've been isolated and really nobody has been able to get in or out of there for the last month.

They're really hurting right now.

LEMON: Doctor, people tend to look at the pictures and they see the gunfire and they see the missiles, and they're sort of a wow factor. Even in the media, we report it as lighting up the sky like fireworks. But if you can in words explain to people around the world what the people of Libya are going through, what it's like to actually be on the ground there in a war zone?

TRAINA: You know, I mean, there's a constant state of terror, you know, in terms of what's going to happen next. Obviously where I was, the people were free. And so there was an immense jubilation with being free of the tyranny of the regime.

But the anxiety of the constant attacks and seeing your brother or your sister or your cousin, you know, dead or having a leg cut off or being shot in the chest, and being on a ventilator machine, and just, you know, never knowing where the next attack is going to be, is just an extremely disturbing situation for people to live in.

There's a lot of psychological trauma beyond what the medical trauma that's occurring. In terms of psychological the whole fear factor that people are going through is going to be something difficult to deal with in the coming days. LEMON: Can you talk to me about women, about children, about the elderly, what they're facing?

TRAINA: It's a similar situation. Obviously, the schools are closed down. The women are worried about their sons and their -- who are fighting on the front lines and their husbands. They're kind of defenseless, to a certain degree, against these attacks.

The children are scared. You know, they're worried and they hear the screaming. And as soon as it's peaceful, the last night -- last day I was there, there was a major bombing at a military depot in Benghazi, where there was over 30 deaths and many injured.

So there's a constant state of fear. And they're just hopeful that it will end soon, and that they will be in a free Libya soon.

LEMON: Dr. Traina, thank you. Best of luck to you. OK?

TRAINA: Thank you.

LEMON: Up next, CNN's Nic Robertson and I were on the air live when the shots rang out in Tripoli, perhaps the most dramatic moment so far in this conflict. We'll show you how it all unfolded live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Perhaps the most dramatic moments of this conflict played out live on this broadcast. Our Nic Robertson was on the air with me when the shots began in response to U.S. missile strikes on Tripoli on Saturday. Here's how it all unfolded live on the air last night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't know if you can hear that in the background. Very heavy -- very heavy --

LEMON: Nic, if you're quiet just for a moment, let's listen, if you can get close to a window or opening, and maybe we can hear it. As of now, we don't. Is it still going on?

ROBERTSON: It is still going on at the moment, Don. Let me get a little closer. You might be able to hear it now.

LEMON: We can. We can. Let's listen a bit, Nic.

ROBERTSON: That's the sounds of heavy anti-aircraft gunfire erupting over the city of Tripoli here. We heard it sporadically several hours ago. Now hearing it much more, in a much more sustained fashion.

LEMON: Nic, if I can jump in for a second -- I am going to let you continue. I want to tell our viewers Nic Robertson is in Tripoli. He's reporting he's heavy gunfire and what's possibly -- probably artillery fire.

You're also looking at live pictures now from Tripoli. This is from the camera where -- the location where Nic Robertson is. Nic Robertson, continue, please.

ROBERTSON: Yes, hearing the loud gunfire and explosions in the city. This gunfire seems to have followed on from several loud explosions which could have been missile explosions.

Don, what I'm going to do is get myself to where that camera is, if you can just give me about one minute.

LEMON: Nic, you go ahead and get into camera position. We will let our viewers listen to this as you get ready and you let us know.

We are going to be very transparent. This is all breaking now. Nic Robertson is in Tripoli. He's joining us by telephone, but he is going to get himself in camera position.

What you're looking at, though, is Tripoli. It is believed to be gunfire happening in Tripoli and also possibly mortar fire. As Nic Robertson has been reporting, this is all happened, it seems to be, in response to that coalition -- the allied forces, of course, the U.S. being one of them, firing on Libya today and also French aircraft in the area in place.

Britain sending in aircraft as well. France also helping out in this. And they will all join the coalition forces in the air at least. President Obama, the U.S. president, has said no ground forces. He's not promising that now.

Let's listen to the fire and the unrest in Tripoli.

ROBERTSON: Yes, beautiful.

LEMON: For those of you who are just tuning in, I want to welcome our viewers from around the world who are watching CNN's breaking news coverage of the unrest in Libya. What you're hearing, firing going on in Tripoli right now.

CNN's Nic Robertson covering that part of the story for us. He is in Tripoli. He is our senior international correspondent. Nic is getting in place so we can speak to him.

You see him in a corner of your screen. As soon as Nic is available to speak to us, we will get him live. If you can, Nic, jump in whenever you're ready.

I'm not sure if his camera can hear us. If so, we'd love to see the pictures that we were looking at before and have Nic talk over them.

(CROSS TALK)

:ROBERTSON: Heavy anti-aircraft gunfire. And as I was reporting to you just a little earlier, that gunfire came after we heard several loud explosions here.

It is in the city now about 2:35 in the morning. Heavy anti-aircraft gunfire seems to be subsiding at the moment. It had come, quite literally, within the last 10 minutes. It was very quiet in the city. We had sporadic gunfire.

Then a couple loud explosions, followed by that heavy anti-aircraft gunfire, which has subsided for the moment. Don, this is what we're hearing in the city at the moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: CNN's Nic Robertson on Saturday night. The U.S. insisted that if the U.N. imposed a no-fly zone over Libya, many countries, not just the U.S., had to help enforce it.

I want to bring back in Gordon Chang from Forbes.com. So Gordon, what happens if Arab nations get cold feet? They waffled a bit today.

GORDON CHANG, FORBES.COM: They certainly did. That is causing a lot of heartburn in Washington, because we had talked about the Arab League support and we used that to get the Security Council Resolution 1973 on Thursday.

If the Arab League moves aside and doesn't support this, then we're a little bit in trouble, because at least we're politically exposed. Gadhafi will then certainly go back to the U.N. Security Council.

This could get very, very messy for the Obama administration.

LEMON: I have to ask then, Gordon, did President Obama get good advice on Libya?

CHANG: He got a lot of advice on Libya. Some not to do more. That came from Secretary of Defense Gates and his national security advisor, Thomas Donilon. He also got advice from the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to do more.

I think that the president did the right thing. Nonetheless, that gives him a very difficult political position, because he's also got the Republicans sniping at him. And then there is going to be Russia, China. There's going to be Venezuela, Nicaragua. And it is going to be a very, very messy fight next week, as these countries are going to criticize the United States.

This is going to be a profiles of courage moment for President Obama, to be able to show his will and to show how resolute he is in doing the right thing.

LEMON: Is this sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don't moment because if you act too quickly, people will criticize you for that? If they feel that you're taking too long to act, there will be criticism there as well?

CHANG: This is certainly what happened in the Egyptian situation. He got criticized by everybody until it worked out all right. And then you've seen the critics sort of retreat a little bit.

This is clearly going to be more consequential, so there is certainly going to be more criticism. It's not just from the Republicans. It's also from the Democrats who don't want to see the United States in a third war at the same time. So he is going to be criticized from all sides.

And that's why is going to he have to show some courage and some resolution. I think if he does that, and he's perfectly capable of doing so, then I think he could go down in history as a great president.

LEMON: When we wake up tomorrow here in the U.S., when we wake up in the morning, what are we going to hear from the folks in Washington, the Obama administration, who is now traveling in Latin America?

CHANG: I think what we're going hear is words that the American role is going to be declining because we have been able to suppress the Libyan air defenses, and that then the French and British and everybody else will then take over.

This might be a little bit optimistic because those other countries are only putting in a very few number of planes. For instance, Qatar is only putting in four. France is the most, is about 20. Some of these Scandinavian countries are only putting in four or five planes.

That's not going to be enough to enforce the no-fly zone. I think the Obama administration is going to have to step up and really realize that it needs have a continuing role that will be substantial. Of course, he will be criticized for it. But that's what he needs to do if he's going to see a good solution to all of this.

LEMON: Gordon Chang, thank you very much.

CHANG: Thank you.

LEMON: The attack on Libya seems sudden, but it had its roots in events that played out over weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON (voice-over): Freedom's cry erupted in Tunisia, deposing a dictator.

It engulfed Egypt, ousting a president.

It swept across Libya, virtually unrestrained until colliding with the defiant Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.

GADHAFI: We are prepared to break any aggression by the people, the armed people.

LEMON: By mid-February, anti-Gadhafi forces had taken strategic towns in the east of the country, including Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, where one of Gadhafi's palaces had been trashed by dissidents.

Ill-equipped, largely untrained, but not afraid to risk their lives for freedom.

Some died, nearly a thousand by one account. Gadhafi fought hard, turning air strikes and live ammunition against civilians. The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved sanctions on Libya. There were some calls for direct action.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I'd begin with the imposition of a no-fly zone so that Gadhafi can't be attacking his own people from the air.

LEMON: In Libya, on the day after the U.N. vote, there were deadly clashes over control of the rebel held towns of Zawiyah and Misrata, west of the capitol. Days later, in the east, two towns controlled by dissidents, Brega and Ajabiya were bombed for the second straight day, followed by a report that the government was once again in control of Zawiyah.

At the center of the conflict sat Gadhafi, defiant.

GADHAFI: thousands and thousands of people will be killed. Determined, I came here in order to greet you, greet your courage and I tell you to repel them.

LEMON: And at times, delusional.

GADHAFI: All my people with me. They love me all.

LEMON: Meanwhile, Libya became a no man's land for foreigners, including the country's vast number of foreign guest workers. Some 200,000 are said to have fled, many across the border with Tunisia, creating a mass refugee crisis.

The airports were swamped by polyglot mobs scrambling to get out. This week, as Libyan government forces began retaking towns held by rebels, the United Nations voted to impose a no-fly zone over the country.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: This resolution should send a strong message to Colonel Gadhafi and his regime.

LEMON: The message was delivered with more than 100 cruise missiles and sorties by bombers and fighter jets. A coalition including the U.S., Britain and France quickly established a no-fly zone over Libya.

The U.S. was reluctant to enter the battle, but still took a leading role once it began.

OBAMA: The use of force is not our first choice and it's not a choice that I make lightly. But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy.

LEMON: Twenty four hours after the offensive began, Gadhafi's air defenses were in shambles, but he still threatened vengeance against the west.

GADHAFI: we will be victorious. We will achieve victory on behalf of the people. We have Allah with us. You have the devil on your side.

LEMON: As rebels celebrated the west's intervention in their stronghold of Benghazi, the Libyan military ordered a unilateral cease-fire late Sunday. So now all sides wait to see who will make the next move.

Don Lemon, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: We come right back here on CNN. Nic Robertson goes inside the Gadhafi compound hit by allied air strikes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Our very own Nic Robertson broke the news of the attack on Gadhafi's compound. He takes us on a tour now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: What we've been told is that two missiles hit this building. You can see all the rubble around me here. We're told it was hit perhaps a couple hours ago, and that when the missiles came in, at least one of them smashed through the roof of the building, and then the second one, we're told, crashed through the roof. And then it waited until it got right into the basement of the building, the rubble, the basement of the building before it exploded.

That's what we're being told happened in this particular building. And the rubble is strewn all over the ground outside of here. It's not just the one building that seems to have been damaged here. Coming down the steps from where we were inside there, outside, over here -- picking my way around this broken fence here.

Over here -- don't know if you can see past the soldier here. But you can see the large -- here we go. The large pieces of reinforced concrete, steel, reinforced concrete of the building.

Up there, you get an idea of where there's a hole here. It appears as if one of the missiles has gone through.

There are quite literally huge chunks of rubble on the ground here. And it's strewn all across this area over here where the journalists like us have been brought in to take a look at it.

This is all in the compound -- the same compound that's used by Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in (INAUDIBLE). That's the leadership headquarters in which the leader lives and works with hundreds of families of the soldiers of the security forces and the civilians who work here.

Also, we have hundreds of civilians, as you can see, who came here two days ago in support of the leader and to protect the compound. What happened is that two hours ago, rockets hit this particular building, destroying it.

Fortunately, no one was seriously harmed. What the spokesman for the Pentagon said earlier that they will not target the leader, it's not really a very honest statement.

LAWRENCE: You think they are targeting Moammar Gadhafi.

LEMON: You judge it because why is this rocket here? This is a very famous location. They could not have mistaken as anything else. The Americans --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: CNN's Nic Robertson inside Gadhafi's compound. I'm Don Lemon in Atlanta. Our coverage continues now on CNN.