Latest Libya Updates: Qaddafi Troops Racing to Benghazi

The reports surface as the international community prepares for military intervention

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6:17 - Yahoo's Laura Rozen has spoken with an unnamed congressional staffer who says the U.S. won't be sending airplanes into Libya and that, in Rozen's words, the U.S. is "diplomatically supporting the no-fly zone, not the enforcement itself."

5:26 - The spokesman in fact denies any bombardent since the ceasefire was declared this morning. As the BBC points out, the claim contradicts unconfirmed reports of assaults and casualties in towns such as Misrata today.

5:10 - The government spokesman also said Libya's air force was grounded in accord with the U.N.'s no-fly zone. AFP, meanwhile, is reporting that the military command in Benghazi is mobilizing its fighters to defend the western access routes to the city.

5:01 - While some believe the ceasefire is a stalling tactic or a ruse, a Libyan government spokesman has just declared that it's "credible, real and valid," and that the regime wants observers from Malta, China, Turkey, and Germany to monitor the cessation of military operations, according to the BBC. The spokesman said forces are stationed outside Benghazi but won't be entering the city.

4:38 - How do we square the reported advance on Benghazi--and heavy fighting on Friday in Ajdabiyah and Misrata--with the Libyan government's announcement of an "immediate ceasefire" earlier this morning? Mary-Jane Deeb at the U.S. Library of Congress tells CNN that the ceasefire may just be a "cover" for Qaddafi and that the U.N. resolution may motivate Qaddafi to speed up his offensive on Benghazi, figuring that "he can move forward until the Western powers decide who is going to be the policeman of this U.N. resolution.” Other experts suggest the ceasefire is a stalling tactic or a way to divide the international community.

4:35 - An AFP correspondent in Benghazi reports hearing a loud blast, followed by anti-aircraft fire.

4:14 - The U.S., U.K., France, and Arab states have put out a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire and for Qaddafi to halt his advance on Benghazi, pull his troops out of Ajdabiyah, Misrata, and Zawiyah, restore water, electricity, and gas supplies, and allow humanitarian assistance to reach Libyan people. If Qaddafi doesn't comply with these non-negotiatable terms, the statement says, the "resolution will be enforced through military action."

4:11 - Al Jazeera is reporting that pro-Qaddafi forces are advancing rapidly towards the rebel headquarters of Benghazi and fighting with rebels in the towns of Al-Magroun and Slouq, about 30 miles from Benghazi. The Guardian's Julian Borger writes that the "time pressure" on the implementation of a no-fly zone is intense: "If Benghazi falls before the air operation gets off the ground, it would be the worst of all worlds. Qaddafi will have defied the UN, and any subsequent air strikes against his forces could simply worsen the reprisals against the rebels and the people of Benghazi."

2:55 - Obama said he's asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to start his military planning and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to travel to Paris tomorrow to meet with allies.

2:43 - Obama made his case for why the situation in Libya warranted intervention: "Left unchecked we have every reason to believe Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his own people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many allies and partners. The calls of the Libyan people for help would go unanswered and the democratic values that we stand for would be overrun. The words of the international community would be rendered hollow."

2:39 - President Obama says "the US is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya. And we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal: specifically the protection of civilians in Libya." He added that a ceasefire must be implemented immediately and that Qaddafi must pull out of opposition-controlled towns and re-establish water and power supplies. " Obama concluded his speech by saying, "Our goal is focused, our cause is just and our coalition is strong."

2:14 - You can watch Obama's address on Libya here. It's set to begin shortly.

12:17 - A series of polls suggests the American public is far from sold on military internvention in Libya, Yahoo's Laura Rozen says. In a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, for example, 74 percent of respondents said the U.S. should "leave it to others" to resolve the situation in Libya. But when Pew asked about U.S. participation in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, respondents were split, with 44 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed. President Obama will have a chance to persuade the public when he delivers a statement on Libya at 2pm today

11:53 - Al-Jazeera English is reporting that there are loud, unexplained explosions outside Libya's capital, Tripoli. In other news, we now know that Canada will also be contributing fighter jets to the military effort. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has said that the "final result" of the crisis in Libya must be Qaddafi relinquishing power.

10:41 - BBC correspondent James Robbins says the ceasefire is a "classic tactic" from Qaddafi and that "it will not stop military preparations." British Prime Minister David Cameron declared that the international community will judge Qaddafi "by his actions not his words."

10:30 - Reuters breaks down what it knows about the logistics of U.N.-authorized Libyan intervention. Military action could take place under NATO command or under a "coalition of the willing" led by the U.K. and France, and analysts expect an initial strike to "target Libya's military aircraft, air force bases and communication systems." Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar are the most likely Arab nations to support the operation.

10:25 - In another sign of continued violence, Al Jazeera is reporting gunfire and artillery clashes between rebels and Qaddafi's forces in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, near Benghazi.

9:58 am EST - Doubts are already emerging about Libya's ceasefire declaration. The Guardian's Ian Black wonders whether the announcement is meant to divide the U.N. after its resolution and how a ceasefire will be monitored and verified. The Associated Press and Al Arabiya television are also reporting that Libyan forces are still attacking the city of Misrata.

Original Post (9:38 am EST)

The morning after the U.N. Security Council called for a ceasefire in Libya and authorized member states to take "all necessary measures"--including a no-fly zone-- to prevent Libyan leader from attacking civilians by air, land, and sea, Libya's foreign minister has announced that the country will halt its military actions, as details emerge about how soon international intervention could occur and how exactly it would be carried out.

In a speech only minutes ago, Libya's foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, announced "an immediate ceasefire, and the stoppage of all military operations," according to Al Jazeera. In Benghazi, opposition supporters reportedly greeted the statement as a "capitulation," but an Al Jazeera correspondent views the move as an effort by the government to "buy time," and points out that the terms of the ceasefire remain unclear.

Meanwhile, Britain, France, and NATO are huddling today on how to implement the no-fly zone, and Britain and France plan to meet with Arab nations on Saturday in Paris to further hammer out logistics. British and French officials have said military operations could begin within hours, with The Guardian reporting that the first attack would be a joint operation of six French and six British planes. U.S. officials hinted that a no-fly zone could begin by Sunday or Monday, according to the Associated Press. Officials are stressing that the intervention is meant to protect civilians and avert a humanitarian disaster, not occupy or invade Libya or choose Libya's government.

The U.S. has announced it will dispatch jet fighters, bombers, and surveillance aircraft, while the U.K. has said it will send in Typhoon and Tornado fighter jets. Other European countries like Denmark and Norway have agreed to provide aircraft, while Italy has announced it will open up its military bases for use in a campaign.

After a classified briefing, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters that military intervention would involve both a no-fly zone and a "no-drive zone" and added that in the first wave of attacks, "we ground [Qaddafi's] aircraft and some tanks start getting blown up that are headed toward the opposition forces," according to Foreign Policy.

Not everyone in the international community is on board with military action, however. Germany's foreign minister said his country remained "eminently skeptical on the option of military intervention," and German forces won't be taking part in any campaign. Turkey called for a ceasefire but also opposes military intervention, while India criticized what it perceives as "outside interference" in Libyan affairs.

Earlier this morning, Qaddafi's forces were bombarding Misrata, the last rebel-held city in the west. Qaddafi's forces have bombed an airport near the rebel headquarters of Benghazi but have yet to attack Benghazi itself. In an interview with Portuguese television on Thursday evening, Qaddafi promised to respond forcefully to U.N.-authorized attacks. "If the world gets crazy with us," he said, "we will get crazy too."

In a helpful video, Al Jazeera explains how warplanes enforce a no-fly zone by preventing Libyan military aircraft or unauthorized civilian aircraft from taking off:

Updating Coverage:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.