Libya: French Air Strikes on Tanks Near BenghaziPosted: March 19, 2011
Enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya has begun, with French military jets taking the lead. According to al Jazeera breaking news, “French warplanes have destroyed four Libyan tanks near the city of Benghazi.” You can follow the al Jazeera Libya live blog here.
The BBC also has a live blog on Libya that is frequently updated. The latest update is this tweet from a Libyan opposition group:
1758: Activist group Liberty4Libya tweets: “#Libya #Zintan, heavy shelling into the city of #Zintan, #Gaddafi troops’ tanks advancing under the fire cover.”
The BBC page is also running video reports.
Voice of America has this report: Allied Warplanes Patrol Libyan Skies. According to VOA Canadian planes are also on the way to launching point in Sicily.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy says allied warplanes are flying over Libya to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians in the city of Benghazi, where forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi have been bearing down on rebels trying to bring down his government.
U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed a short time later that the United States has joined a coalition with its European and Arab partners to take action in Libya.
Obama spoke to reporters during his visit to Brazil. He said the allied coalition’s “resolve is clear,” and that all members are “prepared to act with urgency.”
Gaddafi has already responded as follows:
Gadhafi sent urgent messages to world leaders Saturday, including U.S. President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In a letter read to reporters by a government spokesman in Tripoli, Gadhafi noted the rebels had seized control of Benghazi, and asked rhetorically how Obama would “behave” if there was a similar situation in the United States.
Addressing the U.N. secretary-general, Gadhafi said the Security Council’s resolution on Libya is “invalid,” and predicted that any Western action against Libya would be seen as “clear aggression.”
Here is a report on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement last night in response to Gaddafi’s supposed “cease-fire.”
The BBC also has video of Hillary’s remarks after the Paris Summit today. You can watch it here. You can read the full text of her statement below the fold.
First, let’s remember how we got here. As you know, Americans and people around the world, watched with growing concern as Libyan civilians were gunned down by a government that has lost all legitimacy. The people of Libya appealed for help.
“The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council called for action. The international community came together to speak with one voice and deliver a clear and consistent message: Colonel Gaddafi’s campaign of violence against his own people must stop.
“The strong votes in the UN Security Council underscored this unity. And now the Gaddafi forces face unambiguous terms. A ceasefire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop.
“Troops must stop advancing on Benghazi, and pull back from Ajdabiyah, Misurata and Az Zawiyah. Water, electricity and gas supplies must be turned on to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.
“Yesterday President Obama said very clearly that if Gaddafi failed to comply with these terms, there would be consequences. Since the president spoke, there has been some talk from Tripoli of a ceasefire, but the reality on the ground tells a very different story.
“Colonel Gaddafi continues to defy the world.
“His attacks on civilians go on. Today we have been monitoring the troubling reports of fighting around and within Benghazi itself. As president Obama also said, we have every reason to fear that left unchecked, Gaddafi will commit unspeakable atrocities.
“It is against that backdrop that nations from across the region and the world met today here in Paris to discuss the ways we can, working together, implement UN Resolution 1973. We all recognise that further delay will only put more civilians at risk.
“So let me be very clear about the position of the United States. We will support an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures to enforce the terms of resolution 1973. As you may know, French planes are already in the skies above Benghazi.
“Now America has unique capabilities and we will bring them to bear, to help our European and Canadian allies and Arab partners stop further violence against civilians, including through the effective implementation of a no-fly zone.
“As President Obama said, the US will not deploy ground troops, but there should be no mistaking our committment to this effort.
“Today I was able to discuss next steps with the full group, and also conduct smaller, focused conversations with many of my colleagues. I met first with President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron. Both France and the United Kingdom, along with other key partners, have stepped forward to play a leading role in enforcing 1973.
“We reviewed the latest reports from the ground, and discussed how we can work together most effectively in the hours and days ahead, and how we would work very cooperatively with our other partners, including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey as well as others that are not in that long list.
“I also had the opportunity to engage today with my Arab counterparts …
“We have said from the start that Arab leadership and participation in this effort is crucial, and the Arab League showed that with its pivotal statements on Libya, what really that meant: it changed the diplomatic landscape.
“They have sent another strong message by being here today, and we look to them for continued leadership as well as active participation and leadership going forward.
“With Sheikh Abdullah [bin Zayed of the UAE] and [Qatari] prime minister Hamad bin Jassem, I reiterated our strong and enduring partnership. The United States has an abiding commitment to Gulf security, and a top priority is working together with our partners on our shared concerns about Iranian behaviour in the region.
“We share the view that Iran’s activities in the Gulf, including its efforts to advance its agenda in neighbouring countries undermines peace and stability. Our Gulf partners are critical to the international community’s efforts on Libya, and we thank them for their leadership.”
This is an open thread to discuss events in Libya as well as in the Middle East.