French fighter jets have bombed and destroyed a Libyan military target, marking the first act of enforcement of the United Nations mandate to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

France’s defense ministry said the initial target was a military vehicle. It is believed that British, and Canadian, aircraft will soon join France in holding military maneuvers over Libya.

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a naval blockade will be instituted around Libya.

Our air force will oppose any aggression, President Sarkozy said, adding that an international coalition needs to be used to stop Moammar Gaddafi’s murderous madness.”

About 20 French airplanes were involved in Saturday's operation, a French defense ministry official told the Reuters.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her country will not deploy troops on the ground in Libya, but that the US will use its unique capabilities to reinforce the no-fly zone, adding that further delays would put more Libyan civilians at risk.

Italy will offer seven of its military bases as a launching pad for strikes on Libya.

In Libya, the civilian population, which is demanding nothing more than the right to choose their own destiny, is in mortal danger, Sarkozy warned. It is our duty to respond to their anguished appeal.

Caroline Wyatt, a defense reporter for BBC said “French reconnaissance jets are clearly scoping out targets in Libya. I would assume there have been special forces on the ground as well, assessing potential targets. The planning parts of enforcing this UN resolution have been very complex - we may be talking about 100 planes involved - so once you begin enforcing that no-fly zone, you need to think about enforcing it 24 hours a day to ensure no Libyan jets get up in the air, dividing up the tasks and the bases that are going to be used.”

She added that: “British jets will be performing a range of tasks, with RAF Tornadoes aiming at targets on the ground, Typhoons performing air-to-air sorties, and Awacs planes and Sentinel R1s helping with mapping the ground and reconnaissance. The supposition is that an awful lot of the operation will be based in southern Italy and the Mediterranean.”

In Benghazi, which Gaddafi’s forces have reportedly attacked to demolish the rebel movement, thousands of people are fleeing further eastward towards Egypt.