Long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi said Monday in an interview with TV network France 24 that his violent crackdown on opposition protesters is akin to Israel's efforts to defend itself from extremism during its 2009 Gaza war against Hamas.

Libya has come under international scrutiny in recent weeks, in response to violent clashes between the Libyan military and anti-Gadhafi rebels, confrontations which caused what are estimated to be hundreds of deaths.

On Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon dispatched a team to Tripoli to assess the humanitarian situation in the wake of the Libyan crisis, criticizing the Libya military's "disproportionate use of force."

Speaking with France 24 later Monday, however, Gadhafi defended his military's right to oppress rebel activity, comparing his crackdown to Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2009, saying that "even the Israelis in Gaza, when they moved into the Gaza strip, they moved in with tanks to fight such extremists."

"It’s the same thing here! We have small armed groups who are fighting us. We did not use force from the outset… Armed units of the Libyan army have had to fight small armed al Qaida bands. That is what’s happened,” Gadhafi said.

Referring to the purported number of casualties in wake of fighting in Libya, the long-time leader claimed "there have been at most 150 to 200 people killed."


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"People should come here and see how many people have been killed. They can come and check among the population, and among the police and the army," Gadhafi said.

Gadhafi also dismissed the assessment that recent events injured the Libya's links with the West, saying that the country had "very good relations with the United States, with the European Union and with African countries," adding that "Libya plays a crucial role in regional and world peace.”

The interview came as earlier Sunday, a top official in Gadhafi ruling establishment made an unprecedented appeal to dialogue between the warring factions, in attempt to end the conflict.

Jadallah Azous Al-Talhi, a Libyan prime minister in the 1980s who is originally from eastern Libya, appeared on state television reading an address to elders in Benghazi, the main base of the anti-Gadhafi rebels.

He asked them to "give a chance to national dialogue to resolve this crisis, to help stop the bloodshed, and not give a chance to foreigners to come and capture our country again."