photo: Pool/Getty Images
By David Colburn
In the wake of already great tension, Libya faces further military action. According to MSNBC, the U.S. launched its first missile attack on Libyan air defenses and a French fighter jet fired on a Libyan military vehicle on March 19 at 16:45 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). A French military spokesman claimed that the targeted vehicle was threatening civilians in Libya and Voice of America states that four Libyan tanks were ultimately destroyed by French forces in Benghazi.
Prior to the strike, Libyan pro-government forces disregarded the cease-fire declared by Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi on March 18 and advanced against rebels on two separate fronts. As cited by Al Arabiya News Channel, a witness claimed that pro-government forces attempted to subdue “the opposition-held town” of Zintan due to its “strategic location west of the capital Tripoli.” Al Arabiya News Channel also states the Libyan government blamed opposition fighters for breaking the cease-fire and associated the group with al Qaeda.
An emergency international summit was held in Paris on March 19, 2011. The initial strikes enforced the “no-fly” zone enacted over Libya by the United Nations. According to Voice of America, the U.N. Security Council authorized world powers to use “all measures necessary” in stopping pro-government forces from “bearing down” on rebel forces.
According to CBC News, 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles from both U.S. and British ships were fired on 20 targets mostly based on the Mediterranean coast. U.S. Vice Admiral William Gortney has stated future plans of military action, “This is the first phase of what will likely be a multi-phase operation.”
Following the emergency summit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated the intentions of the world powers: “If the international community is to have credibility, then action must take place…we have every reason to fear that left unchecked, Gadhafi will commit unspeakable atrocities.”
President Barack Obama noted that “the allied consensus is strong, the resolve is clear and the Libya people must be protected”, according to Voice of America, “in the absence of an immediate end to the violence against civilians, our coalition is prepared to act and act with urgency.”
Gadhafi sent messages to world leaders on March 19 following the events, describing the U.N. Security Council’s resolution as “invalid” and Western action as “clear aggression.” Al Arabiya News Channel states that Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim further quoted Gadhafi on the issue, “You will regret it if you take a step towards interfering in our internal affairs.”