NATO air strikes hit eight warships belonging to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in overnight raids on three ports, the military alliance said Friday morning.
The raids took place on military ships at ports in Tripoli, Al Khums and Sirte, NATO said. Pictures showed flames and smoke rising from vessels hit in Tripoli. It was unclear if there were any casualties.
A spokesman for NATO said that “decisive action” had to be taken against Gaddafi’s forces given his increasing use of ships to launch attacks on civilians.
Rebel leaders in Libya said that the strikes showed NATO’s "resolve to protect the civilian population of Libya, using appropriate and proportionate force,” the BBC reports.
Use of maritime mines by pro-Gaddafi forces had disrupted the transport of much-needed aid into Libya and had also "demonstrated a clear intent to attack NATO forces,” the rebels said.
On Monday, allied warships foiled an attempt by Gaddafi loyalists to use small inflatable boats packed with explosives to attack ships carrying relief supplies to the port city of Misrata. NATO had previously intercepted pro-Gaddafi forces laying mines in Misrata’s harbor.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Gaddafi’s forces were suffering under the continued attacks.
"We have significantly degraded Gaddafi's war machine, and now we see the results — the opposition has gained ground," he told a news conference in Bratislava on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a major speech to the State Department that "time is working against Gaddafi.”
“He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible interim council," Obama said in Washington.
"When Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed," Obama said.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim called Obama’s comments "delusional."
"It is not Obama who decides whether Muammar Gaddafi leaves Libya or not, it is the Libyan people who decide their future," Gaddafi told reporters, according to Al-Jazeera.