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Libyan Air Strikes, Thursday's Developments

Libyan rebels rest in a pick-up truck near Ajdabiya, Libya on March 23, 2011 as government forces encircled the town. i i

hide captionLibyan rebels rest in a pick-up truck near Ajdabiya, Libya on March 23, 2011 as government forces encircled the town.

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Libyan rebels rest in a pick-up truck near Ajdabiya, Libya on March 23, 2011 as government forces encircled the town.

Libyan rebels rest in a pick-up truck near Ajdabiya, Libya on March 23, 2011 as government forces encircled the town.

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

For another night and day, Allied fighter planes attacked targets held by forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi, while Gadhafi's forces continue to attack rebels. (This post will refresh every 30 minutes unless we jump in with breaking news.)

Update at 7:38 p.m. ET. Who Are The Libyan Rebels?

We're going to pause our live blog now, but we'll leave you with some food for thought: Time's Swampland blog posits that the Libyan rebels being helped by the allied bombing campaign are the same people who have been fighting the U.S. in Iraq.

Swampland relies on a Westpoint analysis that pins Libya as having the most foreign fighters per capita. They couple that with WikiLeaks documents that detail U.S. worry about the unrest in Eastern Libya that was making being a foreign fighter an attractive choice for many.

Update at 6:14 p.m. ET. NATO Makes It Official:

From the AP:

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the alliance will enforce the no-fly zone over Libya.

Rasmussen said late Thursday the 28 member nations have agreed to act in order to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by the forces of strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Update at 6:10 p.m. ET. White House Promises More Consultation With Congress:

On the domestic front, President Barack Obama has received criticism from lawmakers who said they weren't adequately consulted about the military operation in Libya. NPR's Scott Horsely reports that the White House said it will keep the lawmakers more informed:

White House spokesman Jay Carney says the Administration did talk to lawmakers. But Carney insists the President had to act fast to stop Libyan forces from bearing down on the rebel stronghold of Benghanzi

"Had we waited for Congress to get back, there is no question in anybody's minds that Gadhafi's forces would control Benghazi and there would have been a great deal of people killed in the process."

Update at 4:32 p.m. ET. Clinton Headed To London:

Earlier today, the State Department announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was headed to London. Quoting an unnamed U.S. official, the AP reports, the trip is an international conference to coordinate "strategy and military operation" against Gadhafi's forces in Libya:

A U.S. official says Clinton will attend Tuesday's meeting hosted by British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Foreign ministers from other nations participating in the U.N.-authorized mission in Libya will attend.

Update at 4:11 p.m. ET. Handoff Could Happen As Early As This Weekend:

At a news briefing, Vice Adm. William Gortney said the U.S. is working hard to hand over command of the mission in Libya and it could happen as early as this weekend. The AP reports that Gortney said all of the no-fly zone patrols in Libya today were flown by non-U.S. aircraft.

Gortney added that U.S. air combat missions are likely to continue after the command handoff.

Update at 2:40 p.m. ET. More On NATO Takeover:

NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman just told the NPR Newscast desk that sources he has spoken with say the formal handover of command of the military campaign from the U.S. to NATO could happen later today.

Update at 2:30 p.m. ET. NATO To Take Command, Turkey's Foreign Minister Says:

"Turkey's state-run TV has quoted the foreign minister as saying Turkey's demands have been met and NATO will now take command of the Libya military operation," The Associated Press says.

Update at 11:10 a.m. ET. On That Libyan Jet:

The Associated Press says that the plane shot down by a French fighter today is "believed to be a [Libyan] military trainer," a U.S. official says.

Update at 10:10 a.m. ET. Libyan Jet Shot Down By French Fighter:

"Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi challenged the allies' no-fly zone for the first time today, sending up a warplane over the city of Misrata where it was quickly shot down by French fighter jets, a senior French military official said." (ABC News)

Update at 6:55 a.m. ET. Rebels Besieged In The East: the BBC cites reports of fighting in Ajdabiya and burning houses; the city lies to the south of the main rebel city, Benghazi.

Our original post: The Guardian reports rebels still hold the western town of Misrata, following Allied bombing of tanks and artilllery. But SkyNews reports pro-Gadhafi forces continue to fire on the city.

Even if the Allied air strikes drive back the Libyan pro-government fighters, it doesn't make work easier for the Libyan rebels. NPR's Eric Westervelt tells Morning Edition the rebels are disorganized and badly trained, and worse, have no coherent way to communicate with each other or receive commands.

NPR's Tom Gjelten explores possible endgames in Libya: could it be a standoff? The Allies control Libya's air and sea routes. But Gadhafi controls western Libya and Tripoli, the heavily populated capital, where air strikes cannot be used. With the rebels holding eastern Libya the country is effectively split in two, thus producing a military stalemate with no clear end.

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