United Nations Authorizes Strikes in Libya; Gadhafi Vows Offensive

UN Security Council passes resolution for international forces.

ByABC News
March 17, 2011, 4:22 PM

March 17, 2011 -- The United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution authorizing the international community to take "all necessary measures," short of sending in ground troops, to protect civilians in Libya.

The vote comes just as leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces are planning a major offensive on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya, where opposition forces were seen cheering the vote.

The vote was 10-0 with five abstentions. The abstaining countries were Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India.

U.S. officials say the authorization will be used by a coalition of nations, including Arab countries, France and Great Britain, to bomb military targets inside Libya.

With attacks on his forces looming, Gadhafi addressed the rebels on state television, warning them, "We will find you."

"We are coming tonight," he said to the rebel forces. "There won't be any mercy."

The resolution, a copy of which was provided to ABC News by a U.N. diplomat before the vote, also authorized the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya as a way to protect the opposition fighters and civilians from Gadhafi's jets.

Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit to neighboring Tunisia that imposing a no-fly zone would "require certain actions taken to protect the planes and the pilots, including bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems."

Read the draft resolution HERE.

Gadhafi's forces have struck at rebel forces in eastern Libya in the past week, regaining territory there and showing no regard for civilian casualties. Their quick movement prompted many to worry any help for the rebels would arrive too late.

Secretary Clinton met in Paris earlier this week with representatives of the Libyan opposition, who urged her to provide the rebels with assistance, or else the uprising might soon be squashed.

The U.S. had hesitated to support a no-fly zone for weeks. This week, however, the Obama administration threw its weight behind an effort to authorize a no-fly zone -- and more -- at the United Nations. The shift was a recognition that a no-fly zone alone would not stop the tanks and helicopters that Gadhafi has deployed.