Libya declares immediate ceasefire... but British fighters jets are already on way to Middle East

  • RAF Tornados and Typhoon moving into position to strike
  • Gaddafi is 'already bombing rebel stronghold of Benghazi'
  • Military action against Gaddafi backed by ten votes to zero
  • Libyan dictator threatens planes and ships in Mediterranean 
  • Country's air space now closed to all traffic ahead of attack
  • Commons WILL have debate on intervention on Monday
Libya today declared an immediate ceasefire just hours after the United Nations backed air strikes against Muammer Gaddafi's forces.
In a day of rapid developments, the Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa said that the brutal onslaught against rebels fighters would be halted.
Even as he spoke, David Cameron was on his feet in the Commons to confirm that RAF fighter jets had received orders to go to the Middle East.
The Prime Minister confirmed preparations to deploy RAF Tornado and Typhoon fighters were well underway.
The aircraft will join an international task force in the region in the next hours with air strikes expected imminently.
Tough talk: David Cameron (right) and Foreign Secretary William Hague leave Downing Street today after an emergency Cabinet meeting on the Libyan crisis
Tough talk: David Cameron (right) and Foreign Secretary William Hague leave Downing Street today after an emergency Cabinet meeting on the Libyan crisis
In action: Three Typhoon fighter planes flying past RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. British planes are on their way to Libya
In action: Three Typhoon fighter planes flying past RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. British planes are on their way to Libya
The move follows last night's UN resolution authorising 'all measures necessary' short of sending in ground troops to protect the Libyan population.
Libya today closed its airspace to all traffic, anticipating an immediate attack.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Cameron called upon Gaddafi to immediately stop attacking his own people and stressed that there had been 'appalling' human rights abuses.
'The clock is now ticking,' he said. 'We need now a sense of urgency because we do not want to see a blood bath in Benghazi and further repression and killing of innocent civilian life in Libya.'
The Prime Minister told Parliament that there would be a Commons debate on intervention in the Middle East on Monday.
British armed forces would not be deployed lightly or 'without careful thought,' Mr Cameron said.
'We have, I believe, in this case given extremely careful thought to the situation that we have in hand.
'I think it is absolutely right that we played a leading role on the UN Security Council to secure permission for this action and I believe it is absolutely right that we now work with allies to make sure that resolution is brought about.
'I know there will be many people in our country who will now want the questions answered about what we are doing and how we will go about it and I intend to answer all those questions in the hours and days ahead and to work with our brave armed services to make sure that we do the right thing for the people of Libya, for the people of our country and for the world as a whole.'
Libya Nato forces graphic
Mr Cameron stressed that he was satisfied that his three tests for action - demonstrable need, regional support and a clear legal basis - had been met.
As well as deploying fast jet fighters, Britain would be deploying surveillance and air-to-air refuelling aircraft.
The Prime Minister said that a 'clear statement' would be issued later today setting out what the international community now expected Gaddafi to do.
He said action was urgently needed as Libyan warplanes had already begun bombing the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in preparation for what was expected to be an all-out assault on the city.
Earlier, Mr Cameron chaired an emergency session of the Cabinet where ministers were advised on the legal position by the Attorney General Dominic Grieve.
The PM spoke  to Barack Obama last night and French President Nicolas Sarkozy this morning to discuss the situation.
The UN Security Council’s vote in favour of a no-fly zone and air strikes against Colonel Gaddafi’s forces came last night after weeks of indecision on the world stage.
By ten votes to zero, it backed ‘all necessary measures’ short of a full-scale ground invasion ‘to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas’.
Anticipating the move, Gaddafi had threatened to attack any air or maritime traffic in the Mediterranean, including civilian targets.
In session: Member states including both the UK and U.S. vote to approve the resolution during the meeting of the Security Council last night
In session: Member states including both the UK and U.S. vote to approve the resolution during the meeting of the Security Council last night
Solidarity: UK Representatives Mark Lyall and Susan Rice for the U.S. sit together as they raise their hands in support of a no-fly zone over Libya during the meeting of the UN security council last night
Solidarity: UK Representatives Mark Lyall and Susan Rice for the U.S. sit together as they raise their hands in support of a no-fly zone over Libya during the meeting of the UN security council last night
He took to the airwaves to condemn any UN action as an act of ‘flagrant colonisation’. ‘This is craziness, madness, arrogance,’ ranted the dictator.
‘If the world gets crazy with us we will get crazy too. We will respond. We will make their lives hell because they are making our lives hell. They will never have peace.’
Gaddafi had earlier told Libyan rebels that his mercenaries would invade Benghazi, saying: ‘There will be no mercy. Our troops will be coming to Benghazi tonight.’
Diplomatic sources in Paris said military action might come as soon as today and could include France, Britain, possibly the U.S. and one or more Arab states.
But senior defence sources in Britain warned action would not take place straight away and the U.S. said enforcement of the no-fly zone would begin on Sunday or Monday.
‘We have to deconflict the assets of those who will take part and who will do what,’ said one. ‘It won’t be immediate.’
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there would be action to protect the planes and the pilots, ‘including bombing targets like the Libyan defence systems’.
Italy announced it was opening its air force and naval bases in Sicily for operations against Libya – another potential base for British jets.
The UN Security Council’s resolution was passed 10-0 with abstentions from China, Russia, Brazil, India and Germany.
The resolution included freezing the assets of Libyan National Oil Corp and the central bank because of their links to Gaddafi. It was proposed by the UK, France and Lebanon.
Warning: Gaddafi took the the airwaves last night to say 'We will make their lives hell because they are making our lives hell. They will never have peace'
Warning: Gaddafi took the the airwaves last night to say 'We will make their lives hell because they are making our lives hell. They will never have peace'
Celebratory gunfire was heard in Benghazi following the vote. There was also joy in Tobruk, another rebel-held town.
The move is a diplomatic coup for David Cameron, one of the first leaders to advocate intervention despite President Obama’s reluctance to allow the U.S. to be drawn into another Middle East war.
The Prime Minister cancelled a visit to Scotland planned for today and is instead expected to convene an emergency session of the Cabinet.
Last night he was speaking to leaders of Arab nations to encourage them to take part in the strike against Gaddafi.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said: ‘We have been clear that the world would not accept Gaddafi’s brutality against his own people.
‘This resolution is the expression of that resolve. It is a positive response to the call by the Arab League last weekend for measures to protect and safeguard the civilian population of Libya and it is the culmination of a great deal of hard work in the last few days.
‘This resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire. For an end to violence. We have said all along that Gaddafi must go. It is necessary to take these measures to avoid greater bloodshed.’
Sir Mark Lyall Grant, British ambassador to the UN, said the resolution ruled out a foreign occupation force in any part of Libya.
Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign secretary, said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted. Without action of this kind, Benghazi would have been a bloodbath.
AT last: Libyans in Benghazi who have battled amidst constant bloodshed erupt in joy after hearing news that the UN has backed a no fly zone
AT last: Libyans in Benghazi who have battled Gaddafi's onslaught since protests began erupt in joy last night after hearing news that the UN has backed a no fly zone
Joy: Several rebels take to their cars to celebrate following the announcement of the resolution
Joy: Several rebels take to their cars to celebrate following the announcement of the resolution

What it means: These two men sink to their knees on a Benghazi street as the news to impose the zone spread across the country
What it means: These two men sink to their knees on a Benghazi street as the news to impose the zone spread across the country
‘By the standards of the last 20 years, this is a remarkable vote. This is a tremendous morale booster for Libyans, not just in Benghazi.’
The move came after Colonel Gaddafi warned there would be no hiding place for opposition forces in Benghazi.
In a radio address to the eastern city he said: ‘We will come, zenga, zenga. House by house, room by room. It’s over ... We are coming tonight.
‘You will come out from inside. Prepare yourselves from tonight. We will find you in your closets. We will have no mercy and no pity.’
He claimed he would offer pardon to those who laid down their arms, however, and told his troops not to pursue them.
Government sources suggested the tyrant would be given 24 hours to call a ceasefire or face immediate airstrikes. The Arab League has already called for the imposition of a no-fly zone to stop the slaughter in Libya.
Anger: Supporters of Gaddafi chants slogans and show their displeasure at the decision during a protest in Tripoli
Anger: Supporters of Gaddafi chants slogans and show their displeasure at the decision during a protest in Tripoli
Licence to kill: Libyan deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim said at a news conference that vote amounted to an agreement for Libyans to kill each other

Gaddafi supporters: Libyan deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim said at a news conference that the vote amounted to an agreement for Libyans to kill each other
Last night there were indications that two Arab countries were willing to participate in the initiative, with speculation centred on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Experts last night warned a no-fly zone would take up to two weeks to set up – although air strikes could be ordered much more quickly.
Government critics have questioned the ability of the UK to police a no-fly zone following defence cuts and the scrapping of the Harrier fleet.
But Shashank Joshi, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said Britain could make a ‘very significant’ military contribution.
He added: ‘The Typhoons are available, as are the Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft following their reprieve. There are also frigates available. And there are special forces who could form rescue teams.’
But Patrick Mercer, a Tory MP and former Army colonel, warned: ‘It would appear that Colonel Gaddafi is almost at the gates of Benghazi, so you have to ask whether this is all going to be too late.’
German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said his government had abstained because it saw ‘considerable dangers and risks’ in military action against Gaddafi.
He said German forces ‘will not take part in a military operation in Libya’.

How British forces could enforce a no-fly zone


British forces will be heavily involved in the attempt to prevent Gaddafi crushing the uprising in Libya.
Military experts predict the RAF’s Typhoon fighter jets – which are not fully deployed in Afghanistan – are likely to be among the first sent out to establish and police the no-fly zone.
The multi-role jets are capable of delivering the latest high-accuracy bombs, and their capabilities as fighter aircraft far exceed those of Gaddafi’s ageing Russian jets.
RAF Typhoon F2 fighter from
Military might: RAF Typhoon fighter jets are likely to be among the first sent out to establish and police the no-fly zone, experts predict
The British fighters are likely to be deployed alongside French aircraft initially, although it is hoped they could be joined quickly by aircraft from at least one Arab nation, possibly Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.
Foreign Secretary William Hague indicated yesterday that the no-fly zone would be policed from land bases – avoiding criticism of the recent cuts to the Royal Navy, which severely limit the capacity of the UK to carry out airborne operations from the sea.
Allied forces could use French bases along the Mediterranean or the British base in Cyprus. Negotiations have also been under way about the possibility of operating some aircraft from bases in Arab countries.
Italy last night said it would make its military bases available to enforce the UN resolution. Its airbase at Sigonella in Sicily is one of the closest Nato bases to Libya.
U.S. navy aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean are initially expected to provide radar and logistical support.
The RAF’s ageing Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft, which were recently given a temporary reprieve from the scrapyard, could also play a role in monitoring the movement of Gaddafi’s forces. British special forces will also be involved in the operation. The size of the SAS has increased rapidly in recent years and experts believe special forces units could be deployed to Libya without affecting operations elsewhere.
They will be dropped behind enemy lines to identify potential targets for bombing raids. They could also be asked to carry out other covert missions designed to weaken the forces remaining loyal to the Libyan tyrant.
Experts last night suggested that British warships could also be deployed to the region to carry out bombardments along the coast or to protect merchant shipping from attacks by the Libyan navy.

 
 
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