Libya: International coalition launched air strikes on Libyan Government forces
Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1973, on 19 March, an international coalition launched air strikes on Libyan Government forces. Media sources have reported that French jets who fired the first shots have hit government tanks and armoured vehicles on the road to the west of Benghazi. US and British warships and submarines reportedly followed the French attack with more than 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting over 20 areas along Libya's coast.
On 17 March the Security Council adopted resolution 1973 permitting the use of all necessary measures, including the imposition of a no-fly zone (NFZ) to protect civilians and civilian areas under threat of attack in Libya. The resolution exempts from the NFZ flights whose sole purpose is humanitarian. Media reports state that Libya’s armed forces have attacked Benghazi, where rebel forces are headquartered, over the weekend despite the Government’s claim it would abide by a ceasefire. Heavy fighting has also been reported in Misrata and Ajdebya.
The UN Secretary-General said on 19 March that, along with an immediate ceasefire, Libyan authorities must completely dismantle the deployment of their armed forces and heavy weaponry from around the country’s major cities “so that people can go around their normal business without fear or insecurity.” He also called for prompt access to be given to humanitarian agencies, while the return or repatriation of migrant workers and others seeking to leave the country should also be assured.
Citing an improvement in the security situation in Benghazi, and two days after its temporary relocation to Tobruk, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) returned to Benghazi on 18 March to resume its humanitarian work.
During his visit to Saloum border crossing on the Egypt-Libya border on 18 – 20 March, the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) for Libya spoke to people who have who fled the violence in Libya. Mr. Khalikov also met with UN and non-UN humanitarian actors and local authorities, with whom he discussed preparedness measures that had been taken in the event of an increased outflow of people from Libya.
The HC noted that, due to recent hostilities in the eastern part of Libya, there had been a noticeable increase in the number of Libyans fleeing into Egypt. On 19 March, an estimated 2,700 Libyans, mostly women and children from Ajdbeya and Benghazi, crossed the border into Egypt. They cited fears for their physical safety and reported massive use of force by Libyan Government forces which was starting to cause people to flee spontaneously to their home areas.