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Allied aircraft swept through Libyan skies on Monday, the third day of operations against the military forces of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The day brought little in the way of major military developments as operations launched in the days earlier continued apace. The allied aircraft — British, French, American and for the first time Canadian — have continued to bomb Libyan air defenses, command and control facilities, and enforce a no-fly zone over the country.
Libya’s air force, primarily armed with obsolete Soviet hardware but equipped with a once-potent air-defense network of radars and missiles sites, is effectively out of the war. On Saturday, hours after French jets attacked and destroyed a column of Libyan vehicles advancing on the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi, U.S. and British warships fired more than 100 cruise missiles at the most crucial nodes of the Libyan air defenses, reportedly to great effect. On Sunday and Monday, a dozen more cruise missiles were fired at additional targets (it was not clear if these were new targets, or follow-up strikes on targets already hit but not totally destroyed).
With the air defenses neutralized, the air strikes have moved onto other targets, including a command facility located on the grounds of Gaddafi’s presidential palace. British and American planes carried out long-range strikes, including the deployment of three American B-2 stealth bombers. The attacks are clearly taking a toll — French and Canadian jets flew patrols over Libya on Monday and encountered zero resistance, likely a testament to the damage inflicted on Libya’s defenses. (During one such patrol, a French jet fired upon and destroyed a Libyan armored vehicle.)
No doubt looking for a way to preserve his military, Gaddafi has again declared that his forces will implement a ceasefire. This was swiftly rejected by the allies, and with good reason. The first ceasefire offered by Gaddafi, immediately after Thursday’s UN Security Council Resolution authorizing military force, was soon broken by the Libyan military, perhaps because they know what will happen to them if caught in the open by allied planes. Gaddafi must think the international community is foolish, gullible or both — there are reports that the Libyan military immediately broke even the renewed ceasefire offer and continued attacks. Maybe he’ll try again tomorrow.
If the third day of the allied efforts against Gaddafi brought any bad news, it’s that the allies are facing internal divisions and questions regarding who exactly is in command. Although the United States provided much of the initial firepower for coalition operations, it has not assumed command of the British, Canadian or French forces (though U.S. officers are said to be co-ordinating the various operations without commanding them).
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