Muammar al-Gaddafi's Forces Retreat after Rebel Offense

Forces loyal to the Gaddafi regime pulled back from Benghazi after rebels, emboldened by an international show of force to enforce a U.N. approved no-fly zone, launched a counter-attack on Monday.

The allies resumed pounding government forces early Monday after initial airstrikes halted the loyalist assault on Benghazi.

The United States dismissed a ceasefire announcement by the Libyan military on Sunday evening. U.S. president Barack Obama among other world leaders emphasized that Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi had to leave.

Prior to the air campaign, Gaddafi ordered a ceasefire on state television, which was apparently not enforced when forces loyal to the regime assaulted the rebel's de facto capital at Benghazi.

Throughout Sunday, warplanes from France, Britain and the U.S. hit targets in Libya. A flight of French fighter jets destroyed a column of loyalist tanks and military vehicles just outside of the port city. The charred remains of at least 70 tanks and military vehicles stretched for miles on a road leading to the city. Blanket-covered bodies of soldiers loyal to Gaddafi lay along the route.

Early Monday, rebel forces advanced westward on a path that hugged the Libyan coast.

New agencies reported the successful recapture of Zuwaytinah, an oil terminal that was seized by pro-Gaddafi forces prior to the U.N. Security Council sanction for military force in Libya.

Afterward, rebels were halted roughly 16 miles west at Ajdabiya, where pro-regime forces reinforced defenses.

Five miles from the coastal city, rebels had mounted an assault after hearing allied jets and the sounds of bombs exploding, but retreated a mile away from the city after coming under fire from mortar shelling and tank fire. The rebel offensive seems to have halted as rebel commanders announced plans to advance after more allied airstrikes against Gaddafi's forces, according to The Washington Post.

At a press conference with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said he respected the U.N. resolution authorizing military action in Libya on Monday.

"The Arab League position on Libya was decisive and from the first moment we froze membership of Libya ... Then we asked the United Nations to implement a no-fly zone," he said.

"We respect the U.N. resolution and there is no conflict with it, especially as it indicated there would be no invasion but that it would protect civilians from what they are subject to in Benghazi."

The previous day, Moussa made comments suggesting that he had reservations about the severity of the subsequent coalition air operation at his Cairo headquarters.

Qatar pledged sending four French-built Mirage 2000 fighter jets to the coalition air campaign on Sunday, though the promised contribution has yet to materialize. The announcement on Qatari state-run television, however, marks the first tangible Arab League action in support of the operation.

Jet fighters and other aircrafts of the international coalition currently operate from bases in countries including Spain, Italy, France and Greece. The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is scheduled for arrival off the coast of Libya on Tuesday, complementing the substantial aerial contingent.

British and the U.S amongst others have been patrolling the Mediterranean Sea since the U.N.-mandated intervention began.

Since an initial early morning strike on Saturday, 124 long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from American and British warships. Amongst targets reportedly hit included a building within Gaddafi's walled compound in Tripoli. A CNN reporter invited by Libyan officials to visit the compound reported that he saw a chunk of metal containing English writing.

The British reportedly called off a second bombing run targeting the compound over concerns of hitting civilians. A human shield that included women and children surrounded the compound, though Gaddafi's whereabouts remain unknown on Monday. Libyan state television has continually broadcasted footage of pro-Gaddafi supporters waving green flags.

U.S. Vice Adm. Bill Gortney denied allied intentions to attack Gaddafi on Sunday, raising confusion to whether the dictator is indeed on the coalition's list of targets.

Gortney nonetheless confirmed that targets included those within Libya's extensive air defense network, which has apparently been targeted successfully in the past few days.

In a joint press conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Monday afternoon, President Obama said that because "Gaddafi's air defenses" were disabled, there will be a "transition" in "a matter of days" to hand over full operational control to coalition partners enforcing the U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone.

"Obviously, our military is already stretched," Obama said. "Whenever it's possible for us to be able to get international cooperation ... in terms of planes and pilots and resources, that's something we should actively seek and embrace. It relieves the burden on the U.S. military and on U.S. taxpayers."

However, Obama added that the decision depended on the U.S. military.

On Thursday, the Security Council adopted the resolution authorizing military force in Libya by a 10-0 vote. Five members abstained from voting, including Russia and China, which have veto power.

Since then, China and Russia have stepped up condemnation of the U.S.-led operation on Monday.

Speaking from Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Putin said the U.N. Security Council resolution was "defective and flawed" and "resembles medieval calls for crusades."

Beijing, which shares cordial relations with Libya, compared the Libyan campaign to the two U.S. wars in the Middle East.

"The military attacks on Libya are, following on from the Afghan and Iraq wars, the third time that some countries have launched armed action against sovereign countries," a commentator wrote in People's Daily, which is affiliated with China's Communist Party.

In addition to sending military aircrafts and civilian ships to evacuate Chinese foreign workers in Libya, China has deployed the 4,000-ton missile frigate Xuzhou to the Mediterranean Sea.

For weeks, Libya has been plunged into violence from anti-government protests that resulted into a government crackdown against civilians. Since the protests, reports have surfaced of armed militias loyal to Gaddafi killing civilians at random.

Rebels have armed themselves and have since then fought government forces in fierce battles. A few army units defected to the rebel camp in defiance of Gaddafi's 42-year rule.

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