The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has voted on a resolution authorising a no-fly zone over Libya and "all necessary measures" - code for military action - to protect civilians.
Ten of the council's 15 members voted in favour of the resolution, while Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil abstained.
No votes were recorded against the resolution, which was co-sponsored by France, Britain, Lebanon and the United States.
In Benghazi, the main rebel stronghold, a large crowd watching the vote on an outdoor TV projection burst into celebration as green and red fireworks filled the air, as broadcast live on the Al-Jazeera satellite TV channel.
The resolution fulfills a long-standing demand from pro-democracy opposition forces in Libya asking for a no-fly zone to be established in order to prevent Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, from using fighter jets to bombard their positions, as they have been doing.
It comes just a few hours after Gaddafi warned residents of Benghazi, an opposition stronghold, that his forces would show "no mercy" in an impending assault on the city.
"The matter has been decided ... we are coming," he said in a radio address on Thursday.
The Libyan leader called pro-democracy fighters in Benghazi "armed gangsters" and urged residents to attack them, saying: "You all go out and cleanse the city of Benghazi.
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