The US and the UK hit Libya’s air defense systems with 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles as French fighter jets took out tanks around Benghazi in the first day military action to prevent Muammar Gaddafi from attacking rebels.
The missiles were, fired from US and UK’s ships and submarines in the Mediterranean Sea and hit 20 air defense and communication systems in the western parts of the country, and near the capital Tripoli.
The purpose of the cruise missile attacks was to “shape the battle space” to be able to enforce the no-fly zone mandated over Libya by a UN Security Council resolution, said US military.
“Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians,:” said Barack Obama in Brazil, where he is on a two-day visit.
“That action has now begun.” It is called Operation Odyssey Dawn.
Libya called the attacks barbaric. Strongman Muammar Gaddafi said these unprovoked attacks have turned the Mediterranean into a battle area. He called for all Arab and Muslim states to join him in this “large scale crusade”.
Libya on Sunday said it regarded as invalid a UN resolution ordering a ceasefire by its forces and demanded an urgent meeting of the Security Council after its territory was attacked by Western forces.
A number of these Arab states – and the Arab League -- are a part, however, of the coalition arrayed against Gaddafi. Their leaders met counterparts from the UK, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, Lithuania and other countries met in Paris earlier Saturday.
There was some confusion in the coalition as France went off the block the first, sending fighter jets over Libya. They destroyed four tanks and returned. Within an hour the US and the US were raining cruise missiles on Libya.
“We are creating the conditions to be able to set up the no-fly zone, and once we have established and confirmed that the conditions are right then we will move forward into the next,” said US vice admiral William Gortney at a news briefing.
The attacks are being led by US commanders now, but will be led by coalition commanders in the coming days. Obama is very clear he doesn’t want to own this conflict, saying it will be conducted by a coalition.
The US military said the strikes were the first phase of a multi-phase operation and were intended to destroy Libya’s air defense systems making it easier for coalition planes to enforce the no-fly zone.
The US used two destroyers, three submarines and three other ships for the strikes; the UK contributed one submarine. Gortney couldn’t tell immediately the effect of the strikes saying it could take hours to know.