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Amid the wave of popular protests witnessed by some countries in the Middle East and North Africa, a popular protest movement emerged in Libya, to oppose the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who ruled the country for 42 years.

The spark of the Libyan revolution began in February 2011 with peaceful demonstrations in the city of Benghazi, and then spread to other cities in Libya, demanding democracy and political reforms. The protests escalated and then turned into an armed battle between the forces loyal to Gaddafi and the opposition.

As the conflict escalated and the scope of confrontations expanded, international forces intervened militarily to support the Libyan opposition and protect civilians, by launching air strikes, imposing a no-fly zone, and providing military and humanitarian assistance, which led to the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in October 2011 after the opposition took control of the capital, Tripoli, and the city. Sirte is the last stronghold of the regime.

The beginning of the uprising

The arrest of human rights activist Fathi Terbel sparked protests in Libya, and despite the announcement of his release, the demonstrators continued their march towards Shajara Square in central Benghazi, at a time when a statement was issued by 213 figures representing a group of factions, political forces, organizations and Libyan human rights bodies demanding that Gaddafi step down.

The statement stressed the right of the Libyan people to express their opinion through peaceful demonstrations without any harassment or threats from the regime.

On February 15, 2011, anti-government marches were held in Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, located in the east of the country. The angry demonstrators demanded that Gaddafi step down and release 110 political prisoners, to which the Libyan security forces responded with repression and force, using water cannons and rubber bullets against the crowds, resulting in a number of civilian casualties.

On Thursday, February 17, 2011, the opposition called for a “day of rage” against the Gaddafi regime, which mobilized its supporters in the city of Tripoli and responded forcefully to the demonstrators, and clashes in Benghazi led to the deaths of 7 civilians.

The repression and use of force had a significant impact on more Libyans joining the opposition and going out in demonstrations in other cities such as Al-Bayda and Zintan, and the rebellion quickly spread to many major cities.

Cities in the grip of revolutionaries

It did not take long until the demonstrators in Libya, between February 23 and 25, 2011, tightened their control over the area extending from the Egyptian border to the city of Ajdabiya in the Oasis Governorate in the east of the country, at a time when Gaddafi accused Al-Qaeda of standing behind the revolutionaries.

As the protests intensified, the demonstrators took control of many cities, and the unrest spread to Tripoli, the forces loyal to Gaddafi continued to use force against the demonstrators, and the security forces and mercenary teams (foreigners of different nationalities whom Gaddafi used to confront the Libyan people) fired live bullets into the crowds of protesters, and the confrontations included The rest of the country killed a thousand people, according to what was confirmed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.

In light of this bloody conflict, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi - the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi - delivered a “defiant” speech on state television, in which he blamed what he called “external instigators” and said, “More demonstrations may lead to civil war in "The country."

International condemnation

The sudden escalation of violence by the Libyan government against demonstrators and other civilians caused international condemnation, according to which the United Nations Security Council on February 26, 2011 imposed an embargo on the sale of arms and related materials to Libya.

The Council also banned travel to the territories of member states for senior figures in the Libyan regime, including Gaddafi, as the resolution stipulated that “systematic attacks” carried out against the civilian population in Libya “can be classified as crimes against humanity.”

For its part, on February 28 of the same year, the European Union imposed a ban on arms sales, and on the travel of Gaddafi and members of his government to the territory of the Union, in addition to freezing their assets.

This situation prompted a number of high-ranking Libyan officials and senior diplomats to defect from the regime in protest against the methods of repression and violence taken by the state against the demonstrators.

These include Minister of Justice Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Minister of Foreign Affairs Musa Kusa, Minister of State for Immigration and Expatriates Affairs Ali Al-Rishi, Libyan delegates to the United Nations and the League of Arab States, and ambassadors to Britain, China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Poland.

In addition, the National Transitional Council, which was formed by representatives of the revolution on February 27, 2011, declared itself “the sole representative of Libya,” following its first meeting in Benghazi.

In the face of these resignations, support for Gaddafi declined in some sectors of the army, as some reports indicated defections within the Libyan army and the refusal of some soldiers to confront the demonstrators. Gaddafi lost part of his military and leadership force after a large number of soldiers and officers joined the ranks of the revolution, which weakened The system's ability to control the situation.

Demand to step down

On 17 March 2011, the UN Security Council called for the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace, and authorized “all necessary measures” – which in diplomatic language means military operations – to ensure the protection of the civilian population against Gaddafi’s brigades.

On March 19, 2011, the United States, France, and Britain launched air strikes on regime forces to stop the suppression of the revolution, forcing the forces loyal to Gaddafi, who were at the gates of Benghazi, to stop after receiving many strikes.

Gaddafi then appeared on Libyan television, saying, “The United Nations Charter stipulates Libya’s right to defend itself, and that weapons depots will be opened to arm the Libyan people.” He also called in a letter to then-US President Barack Obama for an end to the military campaign against Libya. Accusing the revolutionaries of being members of Al-Qaeda.

On April 10 and 11, 2011, Gaddafi accepted an exit plan presented by African Union mediators, led by South African President Jacob Zuma. The African Union delegation called on NATO to end bombing operations, but the Libyan rebels remained rejecting this peace plan. They said that it does not provide for Gaddafi and his family to step down, and they clung to their basic demand that Muammar Gaddafi leave power.

The international directive to support the opposition and isolate the Libyan regime increased the impact of pressure on Gaddafi and the repercussions of the popular uprising against him. On April 29, 2011, the Libyan leader called on NATO to end its attacks, accusing it of killing Libyan civilians and destroying the country’s infrastructure, but the next day he lost his youngest son. The six, Saif al-Arab Muammar Gaddafi (29 years old), in an air strike launched by NATO on April 30, 2011 on a house in Tripoli.

Arrest warrant for Gaddafi and his son

NATO extended its mission by 90 days until the end of September 2011, and carried out its harshest raids on Tripoli on Tuesday, June 7. The Contact Group on Libya, which was held in Abu Dhabi on June 9, decided to provide political and financial support to the Libyan revolution from By creating a mechanism that allows it to receive funds.

In this context, then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the days of the Gaddafi regime were “numbered” and that we must prepare for “a post-Gaddafi Libya,” at a time when the International Criminal Court on Monday, June 27, issued an arrest warrant against Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and the head of the Libyan intelligence Abdullah Al-Senussi on charges of committing crimes against humanity.

Gaddafi continued his challenge to the international community in a television speech on July 14, 2011, in which he called on his supporters to march on Benghazi in order to “liberate” it from the rebels, stressing once again that he would never leave his country.

In the face of this situation, the Contact Group, held in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 15, 2011, announced its recognition of the National Transitional Council as the “legitimate governmental authority” in Libya, which paved the way for unfreezing assets owned by the Libyan state.

The killing of the commander of the rebel forces, Major General Abdel Fattah Younis, the former Minister of the Interior in the Gaddafi regime who joined the revolutionaries on February 22, and was shot dead in mysterious circumstances near Benghazi along with two of his companions on July 28, was a severe blow to the revolutionaries, which led to them launching A new attack in the west of the country.

Control of Tripoli

On August 9, 2011, Gaddafi's government accused NATO of killing 85 people, including many civilians, in a raid carried out in the evening on the village of Majer, near the city of Zliten, 150 kilometers east of Tripoli.

On August 14, 2011, the Libyan revolutionaries took control of the city of Zawiya, located west of Tripoli on the road to Tunisia, thus cutting off the Libyan regime’s last roads with the outside world.

In the midst of this, Gaddafi called on the Libyans again, through a new speech broadcast on Libyan television on August 15, to resist the advance of the rebels, and threatened NATO with defeat.

Only a day later, the revolutionaries besieged the capital, Tripoli, by controlling the main roads leading to it, and were able to enter some of its neighborhoods that witnessed popular uprisings such as Fashloum and Tajoura on August 20, 2011.

After the revolutionaries entered the capital, Tripoli, and took control of most of its neighborhoods, on August 21, Gaddafi delivered three sermons in less than 24 hours, in which he called on the Libyans to resist, while the head of the Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, confirmed the arrest of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

Gaddafi's death

After hours of intense fighting, the rebels announced on August 23, 2011 that the battle had been decided, after seizing Bab al-Aziziya, Gaddafi’s headquarters in Tripoli. The National Transitional Council issued a preliminary assessment of the fighting, indicating that more than 400 people had been killed and 2,000 wounded within 3 months. Days of fighting in Tripoli, and nearly 600 Gaddafi loyalists were captured. One of the field military commanders of the Libyan revolution estimated the victims of the confrontations since the start of the Libyan uprising against the Gaddafi regime at around 50,000, according to his estimate.

At a time when media sources confirmed the killing of Khamis Gaddafi in battles southeast of Tripoli on August 29, some other media reports indicated that Muammar Gaddafi’s wife, his daughter Aisha, two of his sons, and Al-Saadi Gaddafi entered Niger to escape the ongoing war in Libya.

On September 21, the interim government formed by the revolutionaries announced its seizure of the city of Sabha, one of the last three strongholds of the forces loyal to Gaddafi, at a time when the city of Sirte, the colonel’s hometown, and Bani Walid were still resisting against the revolutionaries.

On October 17, 2011, the revolutionaries celebrated their control of Bani Walid, Gaddafi’s penultimate stronghold, and put an end to the resistance of his forces by taking control of the city of Sirte on October 20, 2011, after two months of siege, where the revolutionaries arrested Gaddafi after air strikes. NATO forces launched an attack on his convoy while he was trying to leave the city of Sirte, and he was killed on the same day.

Source: Al Jazeera + websites