A multi-national force has launched a series of strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in Libya. Gaddafi responded by attacking the city of Benghazi. Libyan authorities claim 48 have been killed and 150 injured as a result of the allied strikes.
The force is part of an operation to enforce a UN-backed no-fly zone.
Coalition combat aircraft and submarines, based in several countries, are involved in Operation Odyssey Dawn.
A Pentagon official stated that over 110 US Tomahawk missiles, as well as British ships and submarines, struck more than 20 targets on the Libyan coast.
Libyan state TV channel Al Jamahiriya has reported that the Western coalition has conducted several air strikes on the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Unconfirmed reports claim some 40 bombs have been dropped by three American B-12 stealth bombers on a major Libyan airfield. There were additional reports that anti-aircraft artillery had been heard in Tripoli, while Libyan officials claim Saturday’s attacks have hit civilian targets, among them a hospital in Tripoli and a fuel storage depot in Misurata.
On Saturday afternoon, French jets attacked Libyan military vehicles and destroyed some.
After the attack, Libyan TV said Gaddafi’s missile defense troops shot down a French plane over Tripoli. However, France’s General Staff denied the claim, saying that all French planes returned safely to base.
The French President ordered planes to patrol the skies over the city of Benghazi, to prevent attacks against civilians, where Government troops had reportedly been carrying out attacks throughout the day.
Top officials in Europe and the US sought to defend the decision to attack.
We made it clear that if Gaddafi did not comply with the UN Security Council resolution 1973, it would be enforced through military action,” said UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox. “This action has provided a strong signal – the international community will not stand by while the Libyan people suffer under the Gaddafi regime.”
US President Barack Obama faced a delicate balancing act when he pledged support to the international effort to protect Libyans, while seeking to assure that the US involvement would not echo its invasion of Iraq.
“We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy,” he said on Saturday during a visit to Brazil, also vowing that the US would not deploy ground forces in Libya.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chimed in, assuring that the US would not lead the operation, despite rising fears that the military action could grow into something more than just an effort to protect civilians.
“We did not lead this. We did not engage in unilateral actions in any way, but we strongly support the international community taking action against governments and leaders who behave as Gaddafi is unfortunately doing,” Clinton said on Saturday.
Early on Sunday, loyalist troops were reported to have opened fire on Benghazi, the country’s second largest city and the headquarters of the rebel forces. Rockets and heavy armored cars were used, Al Jazeera reported.
In a Sunday address to the nation via a phone call to Libyan state television, Gaddafi said weapons depots have been opened up to the population and are now arming everyone with automatic weapons, mortars, bombs.
”’We promise you a long war,” he said.
Claiming that Libya is ready to fight against the intervening forces, Gaddafi also called on African, Arab and Latin American countries to support Libya in its struggle against their “common enemy.”