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NATO strikes hammer Tripoli, kill 19 civilians

RIA Novosti

12:36 25/05/2011 MOSCOW, May 25 (RIA Novosti) - NATO planes pounded Tripoli and its suburbs on Tuesday with some of their heaviest air strikes yet after the United States said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi would “inevitably” be forced from power.

The strikes came after French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet announced on Monday France would also deploy attack helicopters to NATO’s Libya mission.

Libyan state television said at least 19 civilians were killed in the strikes.

“Nineteen civilians martyred and 150 were wounded in a crusader NATO strike on Tripoli and its suburbs,” Jamahiriya television said, showing footage of three young men on stretchers with head wounds.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim earlier said three people were killed and 150 wounded in the attacks which targeted an unused compound of the Libyan volunteer units.

NATO said in a statement that its jets were targeting a military facility which had been used to launch attacks on civilians.

Russia condemned the strikes, saying NATO was overstepping a UN mandate to protect civilians.

“Here is yet another violation of the UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973,” Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s human rights envoy, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Despite all efforts to justify such actions by a desire to ensure the protection of Libya’s civilian population, there can be no denying the fact that the airstrikes have not stopped military confrontation between the Libyan sides but have only made for additional sufferings of civilian Libyans while not bringing near the declared goal of swiftly ending the armed conflict in Libya.”

Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, complained on Tuesday that NATO was targeting Gaddafi and his family.

U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron said NATO would increase pressure on Gaddafi until he fully complied with the UN resolutions.

“We have degraded his war machine and prevented a humanitarian catastrophe. And we will continue to enforce the UN resolutions with our allies until they are completely complied with,” the two leaders said in a joint article in the Times newspaper on Tuesday.

Russia has refused to recognize Libya’s rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) as the country’s legitimate government but said on Tuesday the rebels were legitimate negotiators in the efforts to bring an end the four-month-old conflict.

The rebels rose up against Gaddafi's rule in February, inspired by similar uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.

The rebels control Benghazi and other eastern cities while Gaddafi’s forces have retained Tripoli and the west.

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