Several explosions were reported east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Thursday, as a U.N.-approved military operation to enforce a no fly zone over the country entered its sixth day.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the coalition airstrikes are aimed at protecting the civilian population and are targeting only military sites.
On Wednesday, forces loyal to leader Moammar Ghadafi had resumed their assault on Libya’s third largest city Misrata, after Western planes temporarily halted the government’s attacks with a series of airstrikes.
A doctor in Misrata said pro-Gadhafi forces were shelling indiscriminately, including near the city’s only hospital, and that snipers were firing on civilians from rooftops. However, Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim insisted Thursday there were no military operations on the ground in Misrata.
Loyalist forces also continued their assaults Wednesday on the rebel-held cities of Zintan and Ajdabiya.
U.S. Rear Admiral Gerard Hueber said Wednesday the coalition was directing its firepower against Gadhafi’s ground forces that are “attacking civilian populations in cities,” including mechanized units, artillery and mobile missile sites.
Coalition airstrikes against Libyan military positions started last Saturday and have continued throughout this week.
A senior British military officer said Wednesday coalition forces have gained control of Libya’s airspace. Air Vice Marshal Greg Bagwell also said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s air force “no longer exists as a fighting force.”
Thousands of people marched through the streets of the rebel stronghold Benghazi on Wednesday to show their support for the coalition’s no-fly zone over Libya.
NATO is moving to assume responsibility for the no-fly zone set up under United Nations’ authorization to protect civilians. Juppe says NATO will take an “operational” role in applying flight restrictions over Libya.