Gaddafi vows to crush rebellion
Moammar Gaddafi has vowed to launch a final assault on the opposition's capital Benghazi and crush the rebellion as his forces advanced toward the city and war planes bombed its airport.
In the face of Gaddafi's increasingly powerful offensive, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution to strike his forces on land, sea and air.
After weeks of hesitancy over imposing a no-fly zone in Libya, the United States made a dramatic about-face, calling for even more expanded action, including strikes on Gaddafi's ground forces besieging rebel-held cities.
In Benghazi, the main rebel stronghold, a large crowd watching the vote on an outdoor TV projection burst into celebration as green and red fireworks burst in the air.
In Tobruk, east of Benghazi, happy Libyans fired weapons in the air to celebrate the vote.
In contrast, a dentist in the capital of Tripoli rejected the measure. "You are in fact protecting people carrying weapons against the official forces. This is nonsense," said Mohammed Salah, 33.
The shift toward international action reflected the past week's swift reversal of the realities on the ground, where once-confident rebels are now in danger of being crushed under an overpowering pro-Gaddafi force using rockets, artillery, tanks and war planes. That force has advanced along the Mediterranean coast aiming to recapture the rebel-held eastern half of Libya.
Gaddafi troops encircled the city of Ajdabiya, the first in the path of their march, but also had some troops positioned beyond it toward Benghazi, Libya's second largest city and the headquarters of the opposition's leadership.
In an address on Thursday evening, Gaddafi proclaimed that the "hour of decision has come" and that his regime would begin to put an end to the rebellion. "The matter has been decided ... we are coming," he said, calling in by telephone to state TV and addressing the people of Benghazi. "There is amnesty for those who throw away their weapons and sits in their house ... No matter what they did in the past, (it's) forgiven," he said.
But for those who resist, he said, "there will be no mercy or compassion."