French flying over Libya while Gadhafi ignores UN resolution (update)
I’d love to tell you I’m surprised (well I am somewhat surprised that the French are already trying to enforce the NFZ), but finding out that Gadhafi’s forces are still attacking despite declaring a “cease fire” seemed pretty predictable at the time.
According to Nicholas Sarkozy, the French have the situation well in hand:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said allied air forces had gone into action on Saturday over Libya and were preventing Muammar Gaddafi’s forces attacking opposition fighters and civilians.
"Our planes are already preventing air attacks on the city (Benghazi)," he said adding that military action supported by France, Britain, the United States and Canada and backed by Arab nations could be halted if Gaddafi stopped his forces attacking.
Well, that’s nice. Seeing as how air attacks don’t really seem to have been very decisive one way or the other to this point, and based on everything I’ve read, I’d suggest the benefit is marginal at best.
Gaddafi’s forces also battled insurgents on the outskirts of the opposition-held city of Benghazi on Saturday, defying world demands for an immediate ceasefire and forcing opposition fighters to retreat.
The advance by Gaddafi’s troops into Libya’s second city of 670,000 people appeared to be an attempt to pre-empt Western military intervention which diplomats say will come after an international meeting currently underway in Paris.
A Libyan opposition spokesman said Gaddafi’s forces had entered Benghazi while a Reuters witness saw a jet circling over the city shot down and at least one separate explosion near the opposition movement’s headquarters in the city.
"They have entered Benghazi from the west. Where are the Western powers? They said they could strike within hours," opposition military spokesman Khalid al-Sayeh told Reuters.
See what I mean about “marginal”? Apparently they have struck “within hours” but taking out a single plane that apparently wasn’t doing much more than recon isn’t going to swing the balance of power to the rebel side. And, as mentioned yesterday, once Gadhafi’s forces enter the city, it will become much too dangerous to strike within the city for fear of collateral damage killing civilians (unless you put SOF folks in with the rebels to handle that sort of job – but remember, we’re not committing any ground troops).
Benghazi isn’t the only place Gadhafi’s troops are on the move:
A witness told Al Arabiya television on Saturday that Zintan in western Libya was being bombarded and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s tanks were approaching the town. "Now we are being bombed in Zintan from more than one direction: from the north and the south," said the witness, who was not identified.
"There are tanks heading towards the southern entrance of Zintan, around 20 to 30 tanks, which are hitting the city and residential areas in the south," he said.
Obviously, “preventing air attacks” isn’t going to change much is it? The tanks are still rolling on.
The words are over, the threats have been made – now it is put up or shut up time.
I think involvement in this is a mistake. We’ll see how it goes.
UPDATE: From the Washington Post:
Forces loyal to Moammar Gaddafi entered the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi early in the day after shelling and fierce fighting, a fresh act of defiance of U.N. calls for a cease-fire. Government troops in tanks and trucks entered Benghazi from the west, in the university area, and began to shell the city, including civilian areas. Intense fighting broke out in some enclaves. The city of 1 million quickly became a ghost town, with residents fleeing or seeking cover in barricaded neighborhoods.
So they’re in Benghazi. Apparently there is a huge civilian exodus to the East (Egypt).
Oh, and about that airplane that was shot down circling Benghazi:
A warplane was shot down over Benghazi, and rebel leaders later claimed it as one of their own. While they said mechanical problems caused the crash, calls from mosques across the city suggested that friendly fire brought down the plane. “Don’t attack the airplanes, because these are our planes,” a mosque preacher urged over loudspeakers.
Apparently the rebels shot down their own plane.
But the besieged town of Misurata, 130 miles east of Tripoli, was still coming under heavy artillery fire, residents said, and there were also reports of continued fighting around Ajdabiya, even farther to the east. The assaults on rebel-held towns took place despite government promises of a cease-fire.
On the rather daffy side (yeah, couldn’t help it):
In what appeared to be a desperate attempt to avert military action, Gaddafi sent two letters to international leaders, according to deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim, who read the letters to journalists. One was a warm, conciliatory note to Obama, and the other was a sharply worded, menacing message to the United Nations, France and Britain.
To Obama, he wrote: “If Libya and the US enter into a war you will always remain my son, and I have love for you.” Libya is battling al-Qaeda, he said, seeking Obama’s advice. “How would you behave so that I can follow your example?” he asked.
In the other letter, addressed to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of France and Britain, he warned that the entire region would be destabilized if they pursued strikes against Libya. “You will regret it if you take a step to intervene in our internal affairs,” he wrote.
Why does Gadhafi consider Obama his “son”?