Forces In Action Over Libya

British forces are in action over Libya, Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed, as UN allies begin military strikes on the country in earnest.Speaking outside 10 Downing Street after an emergency Cobra meeting, Mr Cameron said the action being taken by international forces was "necessary, legal and right".

The co-ordinated action was launched against the Libya after leader Muammar Gaddafi apparently defied the UN's demand that he stop attacking his own people.Military forces have so far taken to the air and water to attack Libya, as the severity of the situation rapidly escalates.French warplanes are patrolling Libyan skies and have fired on pro-Gaddafi vehicles.

Coalition vessels have also fired 110 Tomahawk missiles at Libya's air defences, and British ships are also involved in a naval blockade of the country, sources have told Sky News.Loud blasts have been heard east of the capital Tripoli and fireballs were reportedly seen on the horizon.Meanwhile, Libyan state television reported the bombardment of civilian sites in Tripoli, by the planes of "crusader enemies" - a reference to the West.

The initiation of military action was revealed by Western leaders, following a summit in Paris to decide how to deal with what they said was the dictator's breach of a self-imposed ceasefire.French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after the meeting that military force would be used "in the absence of an immediate ceasefire" because "the Libyan people need our help."Reports suggested Libyan forces intended to deploy 'human shields' to thwart any UN-backed bombing campaign.

As military forces swung into action, the International Red Cross called on all sides to spare civilians and respect international law as military action began, and said medical staff and ambulances should be allowed access to the wounded.Reports said the rebel stronghold of Benghazi has been attacked by Gaddafi's militia, and the insurgents claim a captured warplane was shot down.

Sky's Lisa Holland, reporting from the Libyan capital of Tripoli under government restrictions, said: "I cannot independently confirm the claim of human shields but if it is true it is a worrying development that shows the regime will stop at nothing."The rebel pilot of the fighter jet, which may have been shot down or suffered catastrophic engine failure, ejected moments it crashed in a fireball in Benghazi's southern suburbs.

Sky's Emma Hurd, who witnessed the crash, said: "It had been circling above the heavily populated areas and then it went into a fast dive and caught on fire."A Benghazi resident named Sam later claimed the city was being hit by rocket fire from ground forces loyal to Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi.

She told Sky News: "Benghazi has been under continuous bombing since around 6am this morning - it was non-stop and the windows were shaking."Their troops have been bombing civilian areas with no military facilities... Civilians are being attacked in Benghazi."But a government official insisted military forces were not being used to attack the city on Saturday, amid claims of 25 dead being taken to the city's hospitals.

Sky News foreign editor Tim Marshall also revealed that paucity of information coming from the city of 675,000 people."We have very little factual detail coming out of Benghazi, instead we have claim and counter-claim," Marshall said."Just as the Libyan forces are capable of using propaganda, the rebel forces are prepared to use it too, in an attempt to draw in outside forces to help their cause."

Libya declared a ceasefire on Friday after the UN authorised the no-fly zone over the country.Deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim told Holland: "We are categorically denying there is any military operation on the ground (in the city of Benghazi) since we announced the decision has been made to cease fire."

Regime spokesman Ibrahim Moussa later said the Gaddafi's government remained defiant about the threat of military action.Mr Moussa also denied government forces shelled any Libyan towns today, saying the rebels were the ones breaking the ceasefire by attacking military forces.

Reading from a letter sent by the dictator to Mr Cameron, Mr Sarkozy and the UN secretary general, he said: "You will regret it if you take a step towards intervening in our internal affairs, in our country."The UN security council is not authorised, according to the UN charter, to intervene in the internal affairs of any country."

Col Gaddafi insisted the rebels are Islamists and said in the statement: "We are fighting al Qaeda, in what they call the Islamic Maghreb."Libya's oil minister warned Western companies under contract to continue operating in the country otherwise Chinese and Indian oil firms may be given those rights.

:: A resident of the western town of Misratah told Reuters Gaddafi's forces were on the outskirts of the rebel town and water supplies had been cut off.

Sky News 2011
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