- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2011

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday approved a resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, even as Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s warplanes bombed Benghazi, the eastern city at the heart of the rebellion.

Residents of Benghazi, the second-largest city in Libya, said warplanes had bombed the outskirts of the city, including the airport. Phone service was disrupted and residents could only be reached on their satellite phones.

One resident, who spoke to The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity citing security concerns, said pro-Gadhafi forces were still some miles from the city.

In an address carried on state TV on Thursday, Col. Gadhafi warned residents of Benghazi that his troops were coming “tonight” and there would be “no mercy or compassion” for those who resist.

Multiple sources said opposition forces had shot down two pro-Gadhafi aircraft in Benghazi. Heavy fighting also was reported from the cities of Adjabiya and Misurata.

Libyans view what remains of a burning aircraft north of Benghazi on Thursday. Witnesses said the aircraft was piloted by anti-Gadhafi rebels and crashed for mechanical reasons. Gadhafi's warplanes went deeper into rebel-held territory to bombard Benghazi's airport Thursday, threatening an all-out offensive to bring down the rebellion. (Associated Press)
Libyans view what remains of a burning aircraft north of Benghazi on ... more >

In New York, the Security Council approved a resolution “to take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in [Libya], including Benghazi.”

The resolution, however, ruled out “an occupation force,”a reference to a ground offensive.

The Security Council adopted the resolution by 10 votes to zero, with five abstentions, including those of veto-wielding permanent members China and Russia. India, Germany and Brazil also abstained.

Britain, France and Lebanon proposed the resolution with U.S. support.

In an interview broadcast just before the Security Council voted, Col. Gadhafi dismissed its actions. “The U.N. Security Council has no mandate. We don’t acknowledge their resolutions,” he told the Portuguese public Radiotelevisao Portuguesa. He pledged to respond harshly to U.N.-sponsored attacks. “If the world is crazy, we will be crazy too,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

The Arab League was among the first to back a no-fly zone over Libya, but analysts said it was unrealistic to expect it to impose one unilaterally. One option would be for the League to send planes to participate in a U.S.-led effort.

William Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, told senators on Thursday that the Obama administration is interested in Arab partnership — material as well as financial — and that discussions with some Arab states already have started along those lines.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Burns said a no-fly zone could have “an important, positive, practical effect,” but added that it was important to look at other measures as well.

The top two senators on the committee were split over the practicality of imposing a no-fly zone.

Speaking before the U.N. vote, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and committee chairman, warned that time was running out for the Libyan people and urged the Security Council to immediately approve the resolution.

Story Continues →