6:46 p.m. ET | The United Nations Security Council voted early Thursday evening to OK a no-fly zone over Libya and “all necessary measures” — code for military action — to protect Libyans from leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
Ten of the council’s 15 member states voted for the resolution, but Russia, China and Germany were among the five that abstained. There were no votes against the resolution, which was co-sponsored by France, Britain, Lebanon and the United States.
In the eastern city of Benghazi, thousands of protesters cheered, waved flags, fired guns in the air and ignited fireworks early Friday to celebrate the Security Council’s vote, Al Jazeera television showed.
3:25 p.m. ET | Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi delivered a message on state television Thursday evening, calling on residents of Benghazi to surrender and promising there would be “no mercy or compassion” for those who stand with rebel fighters.
“Don’t betray me, my beloved Benghazi,” Gadhafi said, promising his troops were on their way to the opposition stronghold.
A Libyan rebel carries an ammunition belt in the streets of the eastern Libyan coastal town of Tobruk, March 16, 2011. (Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)
10:30 a.m. ET, March 17 | Forces backing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi bombed an airport near Benghazi, the opposition’s de facto headquarter city, maintaining the barrage against rebels that has afforded them territorial gains in recent days as they advance eastward.
Fierce fighting continued in Ajdabiya, situated en route to Benghazi from the capital of Tripoli, which has largely been surrounded by Gadhafi loyalists. In recent days the International Committee of the Red Cross has left Benghazi as fears grow that the opposition’s hold over the city could deteriorate.
In recent days there have been conflicting reports coming out of various cities in Libya, with both rebels and Gadhafi’s troops claiming victories. Rebel forces, comprised of residents, newly formed militias and defecting army units, made a series of initial victories but have been challenged by superior airpower and equipment in the hands of the government.
The U.S. shifted its position on a no-fly zone, which France and Britain had been the first to encourage, but stopped short of acting outside of the U.N. Security Council. Members Russia and China have yet to back such a move. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said, “The U.S. view is that we need to be prepared to contemplate steps that include, but perhaps go beyond, a no-fly zone at this point,” and stressed the need to protect civilians.
Libyan state television has warned citizens in Benghazi not to align with the rebels, and Gadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam said he expected the city to be retaken soon.
Libyan rebels parade with their guns in the streets of the eastern Libyan coastal town of Tobruk near the border with Egypt on March 16, 2011, as the forces of Libya’s strongman Moammar Gadhafi pressed rebels in the west on and threatened their eastern bastion of Benghazi. (Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)
Troops backing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi lined the road linking the eastern city of Ajdabiya to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi with tanks Wednesday in an attempt to split opposition forces.
On Tuesday Gadhafi forces had stormed Ajdabiya, the last line of defense before Benghazi, and fought with rebels before withdrawing to the city’s outskirts, the Washington Post reported.
Rebel fighters had three of their own tanks spaced along the road with turrets pointed toward Ajdabiya. Hundreds of residents were fleeing the city.
As the fighting intensified, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday it was transferring its staff from Benghazi to the eastern city of Tobruk. The Libyan Red Cross would continue working in Benghazi, the ICRC said.
“As we leave Benghazi and Ajdabiya after almost 20 days, we are extremely concerned about what will happen to civilians, the sick and wounded, detainees and others who are entitled to protection in times of conflict,” said Simon Brooks, head of the ICRC mission in Libya, in a statement. “We will remain in dialogue with both parties with a view to returning to Benghazi and the western part of the country when the security situation permits.”
Meanwhile, the New York Times said Wednesday that four of its journalists are missing in Libya.
The journalists are Beirut bureau chief Anthony Shadid, reporter and videographer Stephen Farrell, who was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2009, and photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario.
Editors said they last heard from the reporters on Tuesday. Executive editor Bill Keller said the Times has talked to officials in the Libyan government, who said they were trying to determine the reporters’ whereabouts and if they were captured by security forces would be released unharmed.