French military jets have fired the first foreign shots in Libya, targeting military vehicles as enforcement began of the UN-imposed no-fly zone.
A French plane fired the first shot in Libya at 16:45 GMT. A vehicle that was providing assistance to the Libyan military was the target. According to the latest unconfirmed reports, another three vehicles have been attacked.
Planes are flying over the rebel-held city of Benghazi, in Libya’s northeast. Clashes in the city continued Saturday, despite calls for an immediate cease-fire. The rebels claim that they have been fired on from three different directions. Among the victims of today’s violence in Benghazi are allegedly numerous civilians.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry says it regrets the international intervention in Libya.
It’s called on all sides to do what they can to stop the suffering of peaceful citizens and to put in place an immediate ceasefire.
US President Barack Obama says it was “clear” that allied forces had to protect civilians in Libya.
As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after the meeting, there will be no US troops on the ground. But there are fears that this operation could grow into something more than just an effort to protect civilians.
Meanwhile, US media has reported that US and coalition forces have already started military actions in Libya.
British Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that his country has joined the intervention, and that British forces are in action over Libya.
According to unconfirmed reports from Libyan TV, civilian areas in Tripoli have been hit.
UN Resolution 1973 authorizes member states
“to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”
At an emergency meeting in Paris, attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and representatives of the Arab League, it was decided to resort to military action to enforce the no-fly zone.
According to reports, the operation is expected to involve British, Arab, Canadian and Danish jets, as well as French.
Italy, France and Spain will provide airbases for support in the region. Arab states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates – said they do back the no-fly zone over Libyan airspace.
The main role, along with those Arab states, will be played by the UK and France.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said that “the time for action has now come” and he fully supports the no-fly zone which will in effect ground Gaddafi’s jets and helicopters.
France says its “number one concern” is defending the civilian population. And as RT’s Daniel Bushell reports, other Western powers have come around to this point of view after the meeting. Germany’s Angela Merkel said that the fact that Germany abstained from the UN vote on establishing the no-fly zone does not mean that they do not support that vote.
Watch RT’s Daniel Bushell’s report from Brussels.
However, Christoph Kraemer, the director of a Germany-based antiwar group, says that UN actions in Libya are undermining attempts to establish democracy in the region.
“What we are witnessing now is not a spontaneous movement. It must have been planned for months, maybe even for years. We are facing a very well organized opposition, even militarily organized, and are very much concerned that what we are witnessing now is not an authentic Libyan movement and development, but another playground for the big international players, especially from the West, conducting their proxy policies there,” he said.
Earlier, US president Barack Obama issued an ultimatum to Muammar Gaddafi, backed by France, the UK and Arab countries, demanding that Gaddafi immediately stops all attacks against the Libyan civilian population.
Otherwise, Obama said, “the international community will impose consequences, and the [UN] resolution will be enforced through military action.”
On Friday, Libyan Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa announced that the Gaddafi regime had decided on an immediate ceasefire. However, reports started coming in on Saturday that Gaddafi’s forces have carried out air strikes and shelled Benghazi, the stronghold of the Libyan rebels, and then attacked it. Also, a fighter jet has been shot down over the city.
The Libyan regime declared it had nothing to do with the attack and blamed the rebels for breaking the ceasefire.
Gaddafi then went further, saying in a letter to Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron, and Ban Ki-moon, that the UN resolution to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya was “invalid” and added that the world powers would “regret” it if they “dare to intervene” in Libya.
Meanwhile, Jean Bricmont, author of “Humanitarian Imperialism,” argues that notwithstanding Gaddafi having made himself an enemy of Europe and the Arab League, NATO forces see Libya as perfect ground for polishing their intervention skills.