Missiles and ground attack aircraft descended on targets in Libya on the night of 19 March as an international coalition is taking action to enforce the UN resolution no-fly zone and ceasefire.

The US and the UK fired 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles from warships and a submarine in the Mediterranean, while French planes attacked government forces launching an attack on rebel held Benghazi.

The missiles hit in Tripoli, Misrata, Mitiga, Zuwara and Sirte, the targets are reported to be government army bases and anti-aircraft defences.

The UN had a day earlier agreed to enforce a no fly zone, and to demand that Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s forces lay down their arms and withdraw from the territory and the cities they occupied during their advance towards Benghazi.

The UN resolution was backed by the Arab League, which voiced its support for military strikes against the Qaddafi regime.

Qaddafi agreed to the ceasefire, but his forces continued their assault on rebel positions in Benghazi. French aircraft reportedly destroyed several armoured vehicles that took part in the offensive.

After initial reluctance, the international community was pushed into action after Qaddafi’s offensive along the Libyan coast swept aside rebel resistance, taking vital cities and oil hubs. Qaddafi, who has ruled Libya for 40 years, had raised the spectre of atrocities in a warning to Benghazi’s defenders.

“We are coming tonight … We will have no mercy and no pity with them,” he said in a television broadcast.

After Russia, China and Germany, who has been reluctant to agree to military intervention, were persuaded not to veto the resolution, the US took the lead in the coalition against the regime.

So far, France, the UK, Denmark, Norway and Canada have committed aircraft to the operation.

Arab and Western leaders in Paris agreed on how to enforce the UN resolution, and to discuss the Arab role in upholding the ceasefire and no-fly zone.

It is understood that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Jordan are willing to provide air support, but details have not yet been made public.

President Obama has stressed limited intervention and has repeatedly stated that no ground forces would be deployed in Libya.