Second Battle of Benghazi

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Second Battle of Benghazi
Part of Libyan Civil War
Palmaria bengasi 1903 0612 b1.jpg
Remains of two Palmaria heavy howitzers of the Gaddafi forces, destroyed by French warplanes on the west-southern outskirts of Benghazi, in Opération Harmattan on 19 March 2011.
Date19–20 March 2011

Decisive Anti-Gaddafi victory

  • Pro-Gaddafi forces fail to recapture Benghazi
  • Turning point of 2011 Libyan Civil War
  • First UN coalition intervention against ground targets

Flag of Libya (1951-1969).svg Anti-Gaddafi forces

Flag of the United Nations.svg UNSC Resolution 1973 forces [1]

Flag of Libya (1977-2011).svg Gaddafi Loyalists


8,000 defected soldiers (rebel claim) [3]
Thousands of volunteers and militia


20 French fighter jets [4]
Casualties and losses
261 killed* [5]
MiG-23 shot down [6]
27–30 killed; [7]
50 captured; [8]
70 vehicles destroyed: [9]
14 tanks or SP howitzers, 20 APCs, 2 mobile MRLs, 1 mobile SAM [10] and 33 jeeps, SUVs, technicals or trucks; [11]
4 tanks captured [12]
*The number of dead on the rebel side includes both opposition fighters and civilians

The Second Battle of Benghazi was a battle in the Libyan Civil War between army units and militiamen loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and anti-Gaddafi forces in Benghazi. [12] The battle marked the start of a United Nations-mandated military intervention in the conflict, with fighter jets from the French Air Force attacking and destroying several pro-Gaddafi units, forcing them to retreat. [13]

Muammar Gaddafi Libyan revolutionary, politician and political theorist

Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi, commonly known as Colonel Gaddafi, was a Libyan revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He governed Libya as Revolutionary Chairman of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977, and then as the "Brotherly Leader" of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011. He was initially ideologically committed to Arab nationalism and Arab socialism but later ruled according to his own Third International Theory.

Anti-Gaddafi forces

The anti-Gaddafi forces were Libyan groups that opposed and militarily defeated the government of Muammar Gaddafi, killing him in the process. These opposition forces included organized and armed militia groups, participants in the Libyan Civil War, Libyan diplomats who switched their allegiance from the Gaddafi-led government, and Libyan military units that switched sides to support the protestors.

Benghazi City in Cyrenaica, Libya

Benghazi is the second-most populous city in Libya and the largest in Cyrenaica.

On 18 March, Gaddafi's forces bypassed Ajdabiya by using the coastal roads instead of the roads directly linked with Ajdabiya, avoiding the need to capture Ajdabiya to proceed. By night the loyalist troops had positioned themselves within kilometres of Benghazi's two southern entry points, the western southern gate being called the west gate.

Ajdabiya Town in Cyrenaica, Libya

Ajdabiya, previously known as Agedabia, is a town in and capital of the Al Wahat District in northeastern Libya. It is some 150 kilometres (93 mi) south of Benghazi. From 2001 to 2007 it was part of and capital of the Ajdabiya District. The town is divided into three Basic People's Congresses: North Ajdabiya, West Ajdabiya and East Ajdabiya.


Initial assault on the city

Burned buses near Garyounis university, Benghazi, possibly of pro-Gaddafi forces, as a result of the ground battle. Burned buses near Garyounis university Benghazi.JPG
Burned buses near Garyounis university, Benghazi, possibly of pro-Gaddafi forces, as a result of the ground battle.

At 7:30 am local time on 19 March, Gaddafi's forces began artillery shelling the city. At around 9:00 am local time they entered the city from west and south with tanks. [14] Rebel armoured units engaged the initial loyalist armoured column at around 10:00 AM [15] Twelve T-72 tanks spearheaded the main thrust into the city, and by 10:30 AM, it seemed the Benghazi was in danger of falling to Pro Gaddafi forces. A rebel tank, aging and rusted, opened fire on the lead pro Gaddafi tank, damaging it and forced its occupants to abandon the vehicle. The tanks behind the lead vehicle all began a withdrawal from the area, under rebel fire, and retreated apparently to the city limits. [16]

By 2:30 pm local time the opposition fighters had repelled the first wave of loyalist forces out of the city. During the daytime battles, a rebel MiG-23 crashed to the ground in the outskirts of Benghazi. [17] The pilot, Colonel Mohammed Mbarak al-Okaili, [17] remained in the plane until moments before the crash before ejecting but was reported not to have survived the crash. [18] The cause of the crash was unclear, but may have been a catastrophic engine failure or friendly fire from rebel air-defences that had mistaken it for a loyalist plane. [19] This prompted rebels to use loudspeakers, mainly from mosques, urging not to "attack the planes – these are ours". [20]

France intervenes, loyalists retreat

At around 4:00 pm local time, French fighter jets entered Libyan airspace and flew over Benghazi, conducting aerial reconnaissance missions and preparing to intervene. [14] Then, at 4:45 pm, coalition intervention began as a French fighter jet fired on and destroyed several loyalist armored vehicles. [14] Later, Al Jazeera reported that French fighter jets had destroyed at least four of the regime's force's tanks; however, this was not confirmed by France. [21]

Aerial reconnaissance military exploration and observation by means of aircraft or other airborne platforms

Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance for a military or strategic purpose that is conducted using reconnaissance aircraft. The role of reconnaissance can fulfil a variety of requirements including artillery spotting, the collection of imagery intelligence, and the observation of enemy maneuvers.

2011 military intervention in Libya 2011 NATO military intervention in Libya

On 19 March 2011, a multi-state NATO-led coalition began a military intervention in Libya, ostensibly to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. The United Nations intent and voting was to have "an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute crimes against humanity ... imposing a ban on all flights in the country's airspace – a no-fly zone – and tightened sanctions on the [Muammar] Gaddafi regime and its supporters." The resolution was taken in response to events during the Libyan Civil War, and military operations began, with American and British naval forces firing over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles, the French Air Force, British Royal Air Force, and Royal Canadian Air Force undertaking sorties across Libya and a naval blockade by Coalition forces. French jets launched air strikes against Libyan Army tanks and vehicles. Despite the use of foreign airstrikes, the intervention did not consist of foreign ground troops. The Libyan government response to the campaign was totally ineffectual, with Gaddafi's forces not managing to shoot down a single NATO plane despite the country possessing 30 heavy SAM batteries, 17 medium SAM batteries, 55 light SAM batteries, and 440–600 short-ranged air-defense guns. The official names for the interventions by the coalition members are Opération Harmattan by France; Operation Ellamy by the United Kingdom; Operation Mobile for the Canadian participation and Operation Odyssey Dawn for the United States. Italy initially opposed the intervention but then offered to take part in the operations on the condition that NATO took the leadership of the mission instead of individual countries. As this condition was later met, Italy shared its bases and intelligence with the allies.

Al Jazeera, is a state-funded broadcaster in Doha, Qatar, owned by the Al Jazeera Media Network. Initially launched as an Arabic news and current-affairs satellite TV channel, Al Jazeera has since expanded into a network with several outlets, including the Internet and specialty television channels in multiple languages.

On the morning of the next day, air attacks were conducted against a loyalist tank column from 4:00AM for two hours. It was confirmed by a Reuters reporter that at least seven tanks and two armored personnel carriers were destroyed in the French air strikes. [11] [22]

Reuters International news organization owned by Thomson Reuters

Reuters is an international news organization. It is a division of Thomson Reuters and has nearly 200 locations around the world. Until 2008, the Reuters news agency formed part of an independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data. Since the acquisition of Reuters Group by the Thomson Corporation in 2008, the Reuters news agency has been a part of Thomson Reuters, making up the media division. Reuters transmits news in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Urdu, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. It was established in 1851.

Admiral Mullen of the United States announced on 20 March, that the international coalition had stopped the regime's progression on Benghazi. [13]

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Coordinates: 32°07′N20°04′E / 32.117°N 20.067°E / 32.117; 20.067