THE LATEST: Qaddafi is now opening up his country’s arms caches and arming the public. He has threatened to attack targets in the Mediterranean.
The U.S. and UK have both fired Tomahawk missiles at targets near Tripoli. Chief targets are Libyan air defenses, according to Reuters.
French jets have destroyed four tanks south west of Benghazi, according to Reuters. There are also reports that strikes have damaged or destroyed a Qaddafi controlled air base.
20 French warplanes are flying around Benghazi, according to Sky News. There are no U.S. planes flying over Libya yet, according to a Pentagon spokesmen.
This operation has been named Odyssey Dawn. NBC correspondent Richard Engel has pointed out that today’s operation begins 8-years to the day after the start of the war in Iraq.
18:55 ET: A U.S. official has told Reuters that Libya’s air defence systems are “severely disabled.”
18:46 ET: Air strikes have hit a Qaddafi controlled air base, according to Reuters (via The Guardian).
18:45 ET: We now have a bit more on the participation of the UAE and Qatar in the operations. The UAE will have 24 aircraft in the operation, and Qatar will have as many as 6, according to the BBC. Turkey has also said it will do what it has to do to implement the no-fly zone.
The participation of Arab states in the operations is certain to support the view that this is a broad coalition.
18:30 ET: The first details of the diplomatic wrangling behind the operation are emerging. The New York Times reports that other coalition members have been upset by the French stepping forward and acting first.
From The New York Times:
The initial French air sorties, which were not coordinated with other countries, angered some of the countries gathered at the summit meeting, according to a senior NATO-country diplomat. Information about the movement of Qaddafi troops toward Benghazi had been clear on Friday, but France blocked any NATO agreement on air strikes until the Paris meeting, the diplomat said, suggesting that overflights could have begun Friday night before Mr. Qaddafi’s troops reached the city.
18:15 ET: The French are denying reports that one of their fighter jets has been shot down (via Al Jazeera).
17:45 ET: Qaddafi says, via phone to Libyan TV, that weapons depots will be opened to the general Libyan population to defend the country against the “crusade.” According to Al Jazeera, Qaddafi may already be arming his population to attack rebels.
Qaddafi has also threatened to attack both military and civilian targets in the Mediterranean, according to Sky.
17:40 ET: Rebels are fighting with government forces in Benghazi, according to Al Jazeera. Rebel forces are in communication with governments involved in the air strikes.
There is some concern that the rebel forces in Libya are not pro-democracy, but rather, are more closely associated with Al Qaeda groups, according to a new report from The Huffington Post.
17:30 ET: Qaddafi is likely to speak to the Libyan people shortly, according to Al Jazeera.
17:27 ET: A French plane has been shot down in Libya, according to Libyan TV (via AFP and Al Jazeera). No confirmation of this yet.
17:10 ET: Libya’s government spokesman described today’s attacks as “barbaric.” He claims the rebels are part of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and that his country was following the cease-fire agreement.
16:30 ET: Both the U.S. and UK have fired Tomahawk missiles on Libya. There are no U.S. planes flying over Libya as of yet. Over 110 Tomahawk missiles have been fired on Libya thus far, according to a Pentagon spokesman.
A Pentagon spokesmen says the U.S. is assisting in creating the conditions for a no-fly zone, meaning one is not yet in place. The goal here appears to be the destruction of Qaddafi’s air defence facilities.
The Pentagon news conference is now complete.
12:45 ET: The first shot was fired, as a French jet jet targeted and destroyed a Libyan vehicle, the defence ministry tells Reuters.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
CLINTON SPEAKS: Hillary Clinton repeated coalition demands at a speech in Paris: The violence must stop. Troops must stop advancing toward Benghazi and pull out of all contested cities.”Since the President spoke there has been some talk from Tripoli of a cease fire, but the reality on the ground tells a very different story.”
Clinton says French jets are already enforcing the no-fly zone. American jets seem likely to join: “America has unique abilities and we will bring them to bear to support our allies.” She reaffirms Obama’s promise not to deploy ground troops.
Now a quick note about Bahrain. Clinton makes clear this is conflict against Iran: “Iran’s activities in the Gulf… undermines peace and stability.”
Clinton defends Bahrain’s right to call GCC allies in to support stability. She points to welfare packages offered in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf as signs of progress. “We have a decades long friendship with Bahrain that we expect to continue decades into the future.”
Will America jets will be used? Clinton repeats that “America has unique capabilities.”
Is it too late to engage diplomatically? Clinton says there has been no real effort on the part of the Qaddafi forces to abide by a cease-fire, thus no possibility exists yet.
Is the goal to protect civilians or to remove Qaddafi from power? Clinton adamantly says it is to protect civilians.
Could Qaddafi remain in power? “Those are all questions that standing here are difficult to answer”
“Thank you all. Have a great night in Paris those of you who get to stay.”
EARLIER: Sarkozy has confirmed that its jets are flying over Libya, and that his country’s fighter jets have begun to enforce the no-fly zone.
Obama gave a brief talk in Brazil, in which he reaffirmed his commitment to protecting the Libyan people and said the coalition would act with urgency.
France is flying Mirage and Rafale fighters. Also there are six Danish F-16 fighter jets at the US air base in Sicily, and American F-18s and Canadian CF-18 Hornets already in the region, according to Reuters. Italy will offer bases, but provide jets only if needed.
The air battle near Benghazi started early as the rebels shot down a Qaddafi warplane and Qaddafi’s forces shot down one of the rebels few jets.EARLIER: What, you really thought that yesterday’s announcement of a “ceasefire” from Qaddafi would mean peace in Libya?
Since then there has been no evidence of a halt to violence, and fighting continued in Benghazi today.
The US has accused Qaddafi of violating the UN’s terms, and strikes are set to begin.
World leaders are meeting in Paris today, according to Reuters, and word is that strikes could begin immediately afterwords.
French, British, and Canadian jets are said to be in the first wave of strikes.
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