After proclaiming a cease-fire, Colonel Muammar Qadhafi’s regime cynically ordered its troops to attack Benghazi, the leading rebel stronghold, in defiance of the U.N. Security Council resolution prohibiting attacks on civilians. The regime hopes to consolidate control in Libya’s second-largest city before the U.N.-backed military forces can begin counter-attacks.
Once entrenched in the city, Qadhafi’s thugs can wreak vengeance on opposition supporters with minimal risk of attack from U.N.-backed forces pledged to halt civilian deaths. Qadhafi seeks to exploit the fact that he is much more willing to shed Libyan blood than is the U.N. coalition. He knows that it will be much more difficult for the coalition to compel him to withdraw his forces than it would be to prevent him from advancing, once the air umbrella is completely established.