Western warplanes, missiles hit Libya

17:22, March 20, 2011      

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Anti-aircraft gunfire could still be heard in Tripoli by early Sunday as warplanes flew over the city.

Youths, standing on a wall of the house of Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi, form a human shield against possible air strikes by allied forces in Tripoli March 19, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

Intensive anti-aircraft guns have reportedly lasted about 10 minutes in the southern and southwestern part of the city, as Libyans gathered in downtown Tripoli to protest the West military intervention.

The Libyan state television said early Sunday that at least 48 people have been killed and 150 others wounded following the airstrikes led by some western countries like France, the United States and Britain.

Local authorities said the injured were rushed to nearby hospitals for treatment, while ambulances were continuing picking up the newly-wounded.

The deadly airstrikes started after a Paris meeting attended by leaders of major Western countries on Saturday, which approved military interventions in violence-wracked Libya.

The Libyan government troops were advancing toward Benghazi, the last stronghold of the rebels, after retaking rebel-held western city of Zawiyah and eastern cities of Bin Jawad, Ras Lanuf, Brega and Ajdabiya.

But Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa declared a cease-fire and an immediate halt of all military operations against the rebels after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution Thursday to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized "all necessary measures" to protect civilians under threat of attack.

More than 20 coastal targets in Libya were attacked by French warplanes and Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from US and British warships and submarines, Libyan military authorities said.

French warplanes, including Rafale and Mirage 2000 fighter jets, launched four airstrikes on Saturday, bombing an air defense site in Tajura, about 10 km east of Tripoli, and destroying several armored vehicles of the Libyan government troops near Benghazi.

Xinhua correspondents in Tripoli also confirmed that an oil storage in the western city of Misurata exploded on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the United States on Saturday launched the first Tomahawk missile attacks against the Libyan air defense from warships deployed in the Mediterranean.

Confirming air raid by foreign fighter jets in Tripoli and also in Misurata, Libyan Parliament Speaker Mohammed Abul-Qassim al-Zwai on Saturday night denounced the "barbaric armed attack" which came after Libya announced a cease-fire and major reforms.

Meanwhile, al-Zwai called the West's claim of safeguarding Libyan civilians "deceiving."

Shortly after the start of the multinational military intervention, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in a televised speech, urged the Libyans to fight against such aggression.

He also said he would open the arms depots to arm civilians so as to defend the country's independence, territorial integrity and glory.

On late Saturday, Libya said it considered invalid a UN resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over the country and demanded an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council after the airstrikes by Western powers.

Libya "has the right to use its civilian and military aircraft to defend itself after France violated the air exclusion zone," the Libyan Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

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