Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s warplanes bombed the Benghazi airport, rebels said, bringing the war to the opposition stronghold for the first time as the United Nations Security Council prepares to debate action.
Fighting continued around Ajdabiya, about 100 miles west of Benghazi, where Gaddafi’s forces are still meeting resistance after saying they had seized the town. Reinforcements arrived for both government troops and the rebels as they fought in darkness after electricity was cut off by the opposition, the Associated Press said.
The UN debate is due to resume today and may be followed by a vote on measures to halt violence against civilians. Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, scoffed at yesterday’s Security Council discussions about a no-fly zone.
“It’s too late,” he said in an interview with EuroNews television, according to a transcript on its website. “In 48 hours, we will have finished our military operation. We are at the gates of Benghazi.”
Libya’s state-run television appealed to residents of Benghazi, a city of one million, to support government troops. There have been few signs of rebels making defensive preparations on the coastal city’s outskirts, the AP said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross yesterday pulled its staff from Benghazi and moved to Tobruk, near the Egyptian border, it said in a statement on its website.
“We will see a real genocide if the international community does not move quickly,” Libya’s Deputy UN Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, who is allied with the rebel movement, told reporters in New York as the Security Council debated behind closed doors.
Libyan government forces continued to fight pockets of rebel resistance in Ajdabiya, and attacked the blockaded city of Misrata, the last rebel holdout near Tripoli.
“The situation in Benghazi is calm,” Essam Gheriani, a spokesman for the rebels, said by phone yesterday from the city. “We are not concerned by what Saif al-Islam said. Our armed forces have taken all the necessary measures to protect Benghazi. Gaddafi has been trying to take over Misrata for two weeks. How would he manage in Benghazi that is a much bigger city than Misrata?”
Members of the rebel’s leadership group, the Interim Transitional National Council, said they still hope for help from the UN Security Council.
“I don’t believe that any member of the Security Council could take the position of a spectator when people are being killed daily and cities demolished,” he said. “What are they waiting for before intervening?”
The Security Council met yesterday on Libya, with Russia proposing that the body issue a formal call for a cease-fire. French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to leaders of other council nations saying it is “high time” to respond to the Libya situation with a no-fly zone.
“Together, we can save the martyred people of Libya,” he said, according to an e-mail from the French Embassy in Washington. “It is now a matter of days, if not hours.”
In his EuroNews interview, Gaddafi said rebels should flee to Egypt while they can.
“We have no intention of killing them or taking revenge on these traitors who have betrayed our people,” he said. “We say to them that they can run into Egypt quite safely because Libya no longer belongs to them. A lot of them have already left for Egypt.”For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.