Libya live blog: Gadhafi troops attack Misrata hospital
Libyan rebels deploy near the city of Ajdabiya to try to attack government forces that have encircled the town.
March 23rd, 2011
10:10 PM ET

Libya live blog: Gadhafi troops attack Misrata hospital

The latest developments on the situation in Libya, where coalition forces launched a series of coordinated airstrikes on Saturday after they were convinced Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was not adhering to a cease-fire mandated by the United Nations. Read our complete story and check out our full coverage on unrest in the Arab world. Also, don't miss a gripping, high-resolution gallery of images from Libya.

[10:10 p.m. Wednesday ET, 4:10 a.m. Thursday in Libya] The coalition air effort to halt the Libyan government's attacks on civilians continued into Thursday for a sixth day, with an airstrike in the Tripoli suburb of Tajura, a government official said.

[9:20 p.m. Wednesday ET, 3:20 a.m. Thursday in Libya] After enduring five days of air strikes by coalition forces, Libyan government troops retain the upper hand. Government forces' move on Benghazi has been reversed, but attacks on Misrata and Ajdabiya continue. One witness said personnel in the main hospital were "paralyzed with fear."

Meanwhile, the Libyan government reported that military and civilian locations in Tripoli neighborhoods were struck. A U.S. official calls that assertion "unlikely" and says coalition forces have been using "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

[6:02 p.m. Wednesday ET, 12:02 a.m. Thursday in Libya] Members of Moammar Gadhafi's inner circle are contacting the United States and Arab states, but have been unclear about their intentions, senior U.S. officials said.

However, the officials said that none of Gadhafi's inner circle have indicated Gadhafi was ready to leave, nor have any of them suggested they are ready to abandon Gadhafi, CNN's Elise Labott reported.

They are indeed reaching out, but it's not clear to what end," one senior official said. "It's not clear what's the purpose of all these calls."

[5:48 p.m. Wednesday ET, 11:48 p.m. in Libya] House Speaker John Boehner has written a letter to President Barack Obama complaining of "limited, sometimes contradictory" information so far on the U.S.-led military mission in Libya and asked for the president to provide "a clear and robust assessment."

Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote that he and other House members were troubled that the president committed U.S. military resources to war "without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress and our troops what the mission in Libya is and what America's role is in achieving that mission," CNN's Deirdre Walsh reports.

[5:30 p.m. Wednesday ET, 11:30 p.m. in Libya] Tanks belonging to Gadhafi's forces shelled the main hospital of rebel-held Misrata this afternoon, a witness told CNN.

The push began at 8 p.m. (2 p.m. ET), when "heavy tanks for Gadhafi troops start attacking the hospital - the bombs falling here 20 meters (66 feet) around us," said one person inside the hospital. He said two deaths had occurred "around the hospital."

At one point, shelling occurred without respite for 40 minutes, he said. "Now, fortunately, no more shelling, but the situation is so serious that all the teams here - the doctors, the patients - are paralyzed, scared."

He called for international intervention to protect the civilians inside the institution. "Nobody can work here," he said. All the doctors here are completely paralyzed." Ambulances were not able to leave the hospital, which had lost its electricity and was running on generator power, he said.

[5:05 p.m. Wednesday ET, 11:05 p.m. in Libya] An update on which Arab nations are playing some role in the coalition operation: Jordanian government spokesman Taher Edwan says that Jordan's role will be limited to a humanitarian one. "Jordan did not and will not have any military participation in Libya, neither in planes or on the ground at all in Libya," he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday that Kuwait and Jordan have agreed to provide logistical support to the Libyan effort.

Qatar has already contributed planes to mission.

The United Arab Emirates said Tuesday it will participate, but only in providing humanitarian assistance. Toward that end, the country has sent a ship and two planes with basic relief supplies, the country's news agency said.

[4:53 p.m. Wednesday ET, 10:53 p.m. in Libya] Members of the Obama administration, while briefing a bipartisan group of congressional aides Tuesday on the military action in Libya, stressed that the U.S. is "not at war" with Libya, according to an official who was there.

The official said there was "deep skepticism from both sides of the aisle, both sides of the capitol" during the session. The official said that concerns about the mission were expressed and that while some spoke of support for "what the president is doing," they were seeking guidance on how to answer their constituents when they ask "what's next," according to CNN's Dan Lothian.

According to the official, who spoke to CNN but did not want to be quoted on the record, the panel could not provide a clear answer and instead said they're focused on implementing the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Critics on Capitol Hill are angry over what they consider inadequate administration consultation with Congress before the start of the military mission over the weekend. They also

[4:30 p.m. Wednesday ET, 10:30 p.m. in Libya] CNN's Arwa Damon talks to the Libyan rebels who came to the aid of one of the two American servicemembers who ejected from a U.S. Air Force F-15 that crashed near Benghazi in eastern Libya after a malfunction.

Rebels recovered the crew member, a weapons officer, and treated him with "respect and dignity" until coalition forces reached him, U.S. Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear III said Tuesday. U.S. rescue teams picked up the other crew member, the pilot, who had landed in a different spot.

[3:06 p.m. Wednesday ET, 9:06 p.m. in Libya] More on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's latest comments to reporters: She said it is "clear that Gadhafi has lost confidence of Libyan people."

That's the main reason "why he should leave power," she said Wednesday afternoon. He can't govern or "meet the legitimate aspirations of his own people."

Clinton indicated that international military action may be putting pressure on Gadhafi to step aside, but stressed that the goal of the military campaign remains purely humanitarian - to protect civilians and enforce the no-fly zone.

It is up to Gadhafi and his advisers "to determine what their next steps are," Clinton said. But we would "encourage them to make the right decision" and "prepare for a transition that does not include Col. Gadhafi."

[2:52 p.m. Wednesday ET, 8:52 p.m. in Libya] U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States and its global partners are making progress in Libya. Clinton cited the retreat of Gadhafi's troops from the eastern Libyan city and rebel stronghold of Benghazi, along with what she characterized as the successful establishment of conditions necessary for a no-fly zone.

"Many, many Libyans are safer today because the international community took action," Clinton said.

The U.S. government will continue to support the military mission as command and control shifts to NATO, she said.

[2:04 p.m. Wednesday ET, 8:04 p.m. in Libya] A new Gallup poll said 47% of Americans approve of military action against Libya while 37% disapprove. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released Monday, however, suggested a larger majority of Americans - seven in 10 - favored establishing a no-fly zone in Libya enforced by the United States and other nations.

[1:59 p.m. Wednesday ET, 7:59 p.m. in Libya] Britain will host an international meeting Tuesday to assess progress and needs in the Libya campaign, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

[1:53 p.m. Wednesday ET, 7:53 p.m. in Libya] Parts of the eastern Libyan city of Ajdabiya fell to opposition forces even though Gadhafi's men, who have been pounding the area with artillery and heavy tank bombardments, retained control of the northern and western gates, opposition fighters and witnesses told CNN.

A hospital staffer and opposition fighters said that nine people were killed Wednesday in fighting near the northern gate. Coalition airstrikes targeted military sites in Ajdabiya Tuesday night into Wednesday, a U.S. military official said.

[12:41 p.m. Wednesday ET, 6:41 p.m. in Libya] In the last 24 hours, the international coalition has flown 175 sorties over Libya - 113 of them by U.S. planes, U.S. Rear Adm. Gerard Hueber said. He said the coalition has no indication that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was complying with a United Nations mandate to stop attacks against civilians. Coalition forces are now focusing on applying pressure on Gadhafi's ground forces that are attacking civilians, Hueber said. That includes targeting Libya's mechanized forces and artillery and interdicting supply lines for "beans and bullets," he said.

The no-fly zone now spans Libya from east to west along its coastline, Hueber added.

[10:41 a.m. Wednesday ET, 4:41 p.m. in Libya] France's foreign minister said NATO will not take political leadership of the international coalition's mission in Libya, but will play a role in planning and operations to enforce the United Nations-backed no-fly zone. The minister, Alain Juppe, said a commission composed of foreign ministers from the participating coalition states will make the political decisions.

[10:37 a.m. Wednesday ET, 4:37 p.m. in Libya] Despite the freezing of its assets under a U.N. resolution, Libya could use its stockpile of gold to keep its government going, the BBC and CNN have reported. Libya's central bank is said to hold about $6 billion worth of gold.

[10:02 a.m. Wednesday ET, 4:02 p.m. in Libya] Some signs of normalcy sprouted in the besieged western Libyan town of Misrata after a night of coalition airstrikes that witnesses said targeted encampments of forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. "It is relatively quiet today - this is the first time we feel that way in weeks," said Mohammed, an opposition spokesman in the city who would only give his first name. "We want to express our gratitude to the international community since there were airstrikes this morning."

[9:18 a.m. Wednesday ET, 3:18 p.m. in Libya] U.S. aircraft dropped a precision-guided munition on the F-15E that crashed Tuesday to fully destroy it, a U.S. military official said.

[7:31 a.m. Wednesday ET, 1:31 p.m. in Libya] Three journalists seized in Libya over the weekend have been released, Agence France-Presse said. AFP reporters Dave Clark and Roberto Schmidt and Getty Images photographer Joe Raedle were arrested near the eastern town of Ajdabiya on Saturday. The three were released in Tripoli.

[12:37 a.m. Wednesday ET, 6:37 a.m. Wednesday in Libya] Several loud explosions and heavy anti-aircraft gunfire rang out in the western part of the Libyan capital at dawn Wednesday.

The source of the blasts and gunfire in Tripoli were unclear, but there is a large military base in the area.

Hours earlier, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had vowed to fight back against international forces seeking to impose a no-fly zone in his country. "We will not give up," he said to a crowd of supporters in a speech broadcast on state television Tuesday. "They will not terrorize us. We will defeat them by any method."

- As of Tuesday, the U.S. military has flown 212 sorties over Libya, while 124 were flown by other coalition forces. A total of 108 strikes have been carried out and 162 Tomahawk missiles have been fired, the U.S. military reported.

– Libya’s central bank holds billions of dollars worth of gold, and despite the no-fly zone and sanctions, this could be useful to Gadhafi as he tries to survive, an international commercial attorney says.

– The United States' costs related to the military intervention in Libya already are in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and this has sparked a debate over funding, CNNMoney reports.

To date, the United States has spent some $225 million firing Tomahawk missiles, according to CNN estimates based on U.S. Navy figures. The cost could reach up to $800 million to fully establish the no-fly zone and another $100 million a week to maintain it going forward, said Zack Cooper, a senior analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

soundoff (423 Responses)
  1. mm

    to the ignorant masses. try reading "The Grand Chessboard" by Zbiegniew Bzezinski. Zbig's sons managed both Obama and McCains campaigns. Zbig defines global strategy – he is in a picture or two with Bin Laden back in the day. The middle east drama, the Afgan drama, etc...are all a part of geopolitics and Zbig along with US President X has been involved. The Grand Chessboard (written in the 90's) pretty much explains the current state of US and allied involvement in the Middle East, Eurasia, Africa...It's all about oil and geo strategic positioning (that includes the end of the US) for the elites. The key is selling the action to the people. The dumbed down masses buy the propaganda hook line and sinker – billions are spent on advertising campaigns and outfits like CNN/FOX provide various flavors of the same game. The US is being milked dry. Who can argue that the US has been de-industrialized along with a major effort to drain the till? Bail outs, endless wars, boogymen, open borders (which should tell you that the terror threat is a joke) – and a massive loss of rights for the people. The death of the dollar, by design, is near. Wake up, look around and get a reality check....Never mind, go back to sleep, grab a beer and cheer the latest war – where we will protect and save helpless civilians by blowing out critical infrastructure with cruise missiles and sorties.

    March 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mobius007

      Thanks for the post, MM. Oh, and I just bought a copy of the "Chesboard" off ebay.

      March 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. j

    NATO actions in Libya are justified, correct, and noble. Anyone speaking otherwise has an agenda in line with the crackpot murderers being killed. Any posts here against the protection of civilians in Libya are more than likely the spewings of Gaddafi's state propaganda ministers.

    March 23, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • mm

      to the contrary...your comments sound like a paid propagandist who is assigned to the a military psy ops unit – using our tax dollars to flood blogs and sites like CNN with BS designed to support the war effort. I'm surprised when have not heard more contrived stories about babies being tossed out of incubators. I did hear a whimper about weapons of mass destruction. How about some cartoon pictures of missile launchers? Let's save the civilians with a volley of cruise missiles, and B2 bomber runs. Not one question from the people – we couldn't possibly be attacking critical infrastructure like we did in Iraq to help spur on a civil conflict. Once the conflict erupts, we once again have to come in (ground forces) to save the day. Funny how this works out...

      March 23, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • freeman

      mm, you come off sounding like the bigger crackpot to me, honestly. I think "military psy ops units" probably have more important things to do than post on CNN blogs.

      And no, I am not payed to post this, nor am I a member of the military or any government organization. (Of course, saying that will do nothing to convince the conspiracy theory types).

      But when a world leader takes out a non violent protest with a helicopter gunship, and racks up a death toll in the thousands, I don't think its completely unreasonable for the United Nations to try and remove his capability to continue that violence. The Arab League, as well as several Libyan Diplomats, urged the UN to pass the resolution and start this action weeks ago, in order to save Libyan lives.

      March 23, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bigblockdan

    this is not for the oil it's for the stocks, get those stocks up, This is not our fight we have nothing to do with what's going on down there, how about sending some of those troops to Mexico or TX AZ an CA let's protect our people here. time to get our ouse in order

    March 23, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jim5k

    I'm not against it. I'm just confused by it. Our news labels them "civilians", but they are armed civilians. Plus they started it. Gadhafi's son called them "terrorists" and I kind of agreed with that assessment. We're even using the word "rebel" as a positive term. What would our government's response be to U.S. citizens / rebels doing the same thing? Would they expect another country to come in and "level the playing field" for them? Or why isn't our response the same for Palestinian civilians who pick up arms against Israel? Or if we could go back in time, would we have defended the Native Americans against the invaders? Plus I can't help but think about all the African headlines (civil wars, atrocities, etc.) I've read over the years. Why no similar response? ...Oil?

    A "No-Fly-Zone" sounded reasonable, but it was a total lie. I think the first (French) shot was at a tank. I doubt that tank was flying. Next we launched a salvo of cruise missiles at "command and control", including Gadhafi's compound. N-F-Z my a** – this is war. To me a N-F-Z simply means not allowing Gadhafi's planes to fly, and didn't he ground his planes when ours showed up? As for enforcing a N-F-Z, can't we do that from over 100 miles away with our air-to-air missiles?

    Yeah, I know, "Democracy"! Great flag to go to war over. But does anyone know who these rebels are and who the majority is? Actually, you can't without a vote. Ousting a leader we don't like isn't democracy. Same with Saddam – handing him over to his enemies was NOT democracy (ask me what verdict I would have returned if GWB's enemies (and there were many) put him on trial). Democracy would be to put Gadhafi (or Saddam) on a ballot and hold an election. And wouldn't it be funny if they won? Guess we'll never know (and I'm sure our government doesn't want us to).

    March 23, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • showard

      Where did you get your information? The civilians started out as peaceful protestors. Then they were attacked.

      March 23, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • conoclast

      Remember the UN resolution? It stated 'all means neccessary...' to stop a clearly deranged dictator from making good on his promise of a bloodbath. The NFZ is expressly so that the coalition can attack Gadhaffi's GROUND forces with impunity. Is it such a terrible thing to thwart an atrocity-in-the-making?

      March 23, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • LMT

      Nice post, I agree with everything you said

      March 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Johny Hobart

    Facebook will close down all accounts today. The official announcement was made by Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook Owner.
    This is a simple step to keep your account working.
    If you want to have you account from now, please verify your account.

    http://apps.facebook.com/no_shutting_down/

    March 23, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. enlightenment DWAMN

    LEGALIZE MARIJUANA

    March 23, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. David Keener

    Obama has done what Bush did not, built a consensus and made nations pony up. And he did not do what McCain seems to want to do, pull a page from Bush playbook. And Boehner, what do you want? You seem to be incoherent in just about everything you pursue. I support the strike on Libya, and the way our military has gone about their mission. Justice will prevail.

    March 23, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Brandon

    This is about as cut and dry of a "good war" as you can get guys. We are supporting a popular and organized home grown initiative, I.E: no insurgency or major long term commitment required on our part. In actuality, it's something that will actually help win us support in the region. We are directly intervening to save civilians being murdered by the opposition, so there's not going to be significant flak for collateral damage. While Libya is an oil producing country, we do not directly receive oil from them, though our allies do. It's an example of the UN actually standing up and supporting their stated agenda. We're participating with a popular UN movement, not insisting on support on something we're leading alone, and thus recovering some of our lost goodwill with the UN. We're opposing a ruler who has been notoriously unfit for years. Hell, it's not even a difficult or expensive fight for us.

    I can see the argument that we should not enter armed conflict unless we've been personally attacked, but that's about the only logical point of conflict I can see on this one.

    March 23, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. armywife

    There are alot of similarities between this and Iraq but there is one major difference. The Iraqi people did not want our help, they did not ask for it and were livid when we took over their country. Wouldn't you be? The people in Libya have been asking the world for help this whole time. They rejoiced at the different countries coming to help them. It is what we do, as americans and as human beings, to help other human beings that are in dier need of our help. And, yes, hundreds of thousands of Iraquis were killed in that war, but most of them were killed by other Iraquis. Suicide bombers and the like. We injected ourselves into a religious war and they did not care if they killed eachother or not. This is not the same thing.

    March 23, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mdb01

    My God, after Wolf's interview with the National Security Chief is clear that Obana has not clue. This is not a bad administration it is one that is completely incompetent. We are for regime change but we are not acting on it? they have no clue.

    March 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John macintyre

    come on boys , get in there on the ground. Can't take to long here. Still got Yemen , Bahrain , Saudi Arabia and a few more to go , unless the usa hard on is only for Lybya ???????

    March 23, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. R C Porter

    Gaddafi should have been taken down the first time

    March 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John macintyre

    Does anyone realize that Tomahawk missiles are a million bucks a shot. thats $166 million already.
    wouldn't that money go a long way on the ground in the USA ???? And , in order to attempt a victory from the air ??
    How many more will be needed???? I'm guessing hundreds.

    March 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moe NY

      Do you know that you cannot put a price on human life? Our POTUS handled this situation extremely well in conjunction with the UN. You do know about the UN...correct? You do know about the War Powers Act...right? You do know that the international sector is working together on this action...right? Just curious!

      March 23, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. R C Porter

    Here is a hot FLASH FOR ALL YOU KNOW IT ALLS, WORLD WAR THREE IS CLOSER THEN YOU THINK.

    March 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. conoclast

    If the republicans' chief objection to the no-fly zone is how much we're spending on it then they're really barking up a dangerous tree. If we accept that a clearly deranged dictator would make good on his promise to 'kill them in their thousands' then what else can the civilized world do but try to prevent it? I suppose the key word here is "civilized"; what would history say about a culture that decided thwarting atrocity isn't worth the money? True, we're not the world's sheriff - but we-as-a-nation still have a functioning conscience. Or do we, republicans?

    March 23, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
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