Libyan Anti-government Forces Brace for New Fight; U.N. Imposes Sanctions
A Libyan insurgent soldier displays heavy caliber ammunition in Benghazi. Photo by Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images
Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi have surrounded the rebel-controlled city of Zawiya, 30 miles from Tripoli, and are expected to launch an armed offensive on anti-government fighters in the city, the Associated Press reports.
The latest signals of violence come as the international community ratcheted up its response to the Libyan crisis, with a new round of U.N. sanctions and a direct call from President Obama for Gadhafi to go.
Hundreds of anti-government rebels and defected soldiers are reported to be in control the center of Zawiya, which has a population of 200,000, and is the closest city to Tripoli to fall under rebel control. The anti-government forces have created barricades and have six tanks and trucks outfitted with anti-aircraft guns at the ready, according to the New York Times.
As the city braces for the latest turn in the protest scene, the Libyan government is facing new condemnation from the U.N.
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Saturday night to impose sanctions against Libya, including an arms embargo; freezing the assets of its leaders; and referring Gadhafi to the International Criminal Court for possible crimes against humanity for the violent repression of demonstrations calling for his ouster.
“The actions taken by the regime in Libya are clear cut violations of all norms governing international behavior and serious transgressions of international human rights and humanitarian law,” U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said after Security Council’s vote.
The vote marks only the second time the Security Council has referred a country to the ICC. The U.N. estimates more than 1,000 people have died as a result of efforts to crush the revolt, reported the BBC.
In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” host Christiane Amanpour, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Col. Moammar Gadhafi and one of his chief advisers, insisted the military has not attacked any civilians.
“Show me a single attack. Show me a single bomb,” he said, according to a transcript. “The Libyan air force destroyed just the ammunition sites. That’s it.”
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also called for Gadhafi to step down Saturday, the first time the administration has directly advocated the leader leave office.
The White House released an account of a phone conversation between President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during which Mr. Obama stated “when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now.”
Meanwhile, other protests continue in cities in the Middle East, including Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq and Egypt.
The New York Times has a continuously updated country-by-country roundup, to help track these developments, including new calls for protests in Iran.
And we’ll have more on the situation in Libya on Monday’s NewsHour. Stay tuned.