Obama spoke after the Libyan government declared an immediate cease-fire Friday in a bid to head off Western military intervention on behalf of rebels seeking to overthrow Gaddafi, hours after the U.N. Security Council authorized a no-fly zone and the use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya.
Despite the declaration, Gaddafi’s forces continued pummeling areas of eastern Libya with artillery and airstrikes well after the cease-fire was supposed to take effect. The attacks targeted the areas around Zuwaytinah and Ajdabiya, more than 90 miles south of Benghazi. Jets streaked across the sky firing at targets, at least one helicopter flew low across the desert, and artillery bombardment could be heard for several hours Friday afternoon around Zuwaytinah.
Residents and rebel officials said the assaults continued well after Gaddafi’s government announced a cease-fire Friday afternoon local time.
“Where is the international community?” screamed Mohammed al-Hadar, a rebel fighter. “They are still using airplanes to kill us.”
At least two bodies lay inside a pick-up truck that came from the direction of the fighting. The men appeared to be fighters.
Other fighters withdrawing from Zuwaytinah said Gaddafi’s forces had fired with heavy machine guns at civilians in cars fleeing Ajdabiya. Faraj al-Obeidi said he saw eight civilians, including women and children, who were killed trying to cross the front line by Gaddafi’s forces blocking the eastern entrance to Ajdabiya.
Obeidi said he and his comrades gathered the bodies and covered them with blankets and carpets. “At this moment, the airplanes started bombing and we fled,” said Obeidi. “Their bodies are still along the road.”
Rebel officials said Gaddafi’s forces had no intention of honoring the cease-fire. They said attacks also continued in the western towns of Misurata and Zintan well after the cease-fire was announced.
In his appearance at the White House, Obama stressed in a stern tone that the U.N. resolution’s conditions “must be met.” He said, “The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Arab states agreed that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop.”
He said the demands for the pull-back of Libyan troops “are not subject to negotiation.” And he warned that the U.N. resolution “will be enforced through military action” if Gaddafi does not comply.