THE world has declared war on murderous Colonel Gaddafi. Defying expectations, a UN Security Council resolution to protect retreating rebel fighters and civilians from his onslaught was dramatically passed.
It authorised a no-fly zone over Libya, as well as air strikes on the Tripoli tyrant's advancing tanks and troops.
RAF top guns could go into action as early as today if Gaddafi refuses an immediate ceasefire.
Typhoon jet pilots as well as refuelling tanker crews were put on immediate standby to fly to a southern European air base.
The UN verdict is a major diplomatic coup for PM David Cameron, who was the first world leader to call for the air mission.
One French diplomatic source told reporters: "Once the resolution is voted, an operation could start within several hours."
By late evening, telephone lines to Benghazi and internet connections appeared to be cut.
Gaddafi's Defence Ministry warned of swift retaliation, even beyond Libyan frontiers, if the UN voted for military action against the oil-exporting nation.
"Any foreign military act against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea to danger and civilian and military facilities will become targets of Libya's counter-attack," the ministry said in a statement