UN Security Council authorizes military strikes on Libya

Resolution authorizes UN members to take "all necessary measures" to protect civilians and civilian centers.

UN security Council 521 (photo credit: Reuters)
UN security Council 521
(photo credit: Reuters)
NEW YORK – The United Nations Security Council voted Thursday to authorize military force against Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gadhafi’s forces.
“Today the Security Council has responded to the Libyan people's cry for help,” US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said. “This Council's purpose is clear: to protect innocent civilians.”
RELATED:Libya: At least 30 dead as rebels try to halt Benghazi pushUS: UN should consider more than Libya no-fly zone
The resolution demands the "immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all attacks, and abuses, of civilians." The resolution stipulates that member states, upon notification to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, can “take all necessary measures...to protect civilians and civilian populated areas, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory."
The Security Council’s authorization of the use of force also includes the enforcement of a no-fly zone to protect civilians, as well as an enforcement of the arms embargo, banning all international flights by Libyan owned or operated aircraft. The resolution also freezes the assets of certain individuals and five entities including critical state-owned Libyan companies. A newly established Libyan Sanctions Committee is empowered by the resolution to impose
sanctions on those who violate the arms embargo, including by providing Gadhafi with mercenaries. 
“The future of Libya should be decided by the people of Libya,” Rice said in her remarks to the Security Council. “The United States stands with the Libyan people in support of their universal rights.”
The resolution was backed strongly by France, the United Kingdom and Lebanon. Ten countries voted in favor of the resolution. Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil abstained. 
"Our resolution is aimed to protect Libyan civilians," Lebanon’s ambassador to the UN Nawaf Salam said. "It will not result in the occupation of even an inch of Libyan territory."
The BBC has reported that raids conducted by unmanned drones could take place as early as Friday.
Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East
Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East
United Kingdom Ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall told the Security Council that the situation in Libya, as Gadhafi pushes toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, is now clear, and that “a violent, discredited regime which has lost all legitimacy is using weapons of war against civilians.”
“The international community has come together in deploring the actions of the Gadhafi regime and demanding that the regime end this violence against the Libyan people,” Lyall told the body. “The Libyan population want the same rights and freedoms that people across the Middle East and North Africa are demanding, and that are enshrined in the values of the United Nations Charter. Today’s resolution puts the weight of the Security Council squarely behind the Libyan people in defense of those values."
Gaddafi says will show 'no mercy, no pity' in Benghazi
The UN resolution came hours after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi threatened to storm the rebel bastion of Benghazi overnight, showing "no mercy, no pity".
Al Jazeera television showed thousands of Benghazi residents in a central square celebrating the UN vote, waving anti-Gaddafi tricolor flags and chanting defiance of the man who has ruled for four decades. Fireworks burst over the city.
Gaddafi had warned that only those who lay down their arms would be spared vengeance to be exacted on 'rats and dogs'.
"It's over. The issue has been decided," Gaddafi said. "We are coming tonight...We will find you in your closets. "We will have no mercy and no pity."
Residents said the Libyan air force unleashed three air raids on the city of 670,000 on Thursday and there has been fierce fighting along the Mediterranean coastal road as Gaddafi moves to crush the month-old insurrection.
Rebel National Council head Mustafa Abdel Jalil told Al Jazeera television air strikes were essential to stop Gaddafi.
"We stand on firm ground. We will not be intimidated by these lies and claims... We will not settle for anything but liberation from this regime."
Gaddafi's Defense Ministry warned of swift retaliation, even beyond Libyan frontiers, if the UN voted for military action against the oil-exporting nation.
"Any foreign military act against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea to danger and civilian and military [facilities] will become targets of Libya's counter-attack," the ministry said in a statement.
Reuters contributed to this report.