A resident in the northern Malian town of Gao described France's strike on the Mali rebel stronghold as a "bombardment".
Two helicopters are bombarding the positions of the Islamists, who are trying to fight back. The planes are so fast you only hear their sound in the sky.
A spokesman for Islamist rebel group Ansar Dine said French aircraft had also attacked its positions in the smaller towns of Lere and Douentza, further south.
Throughout ten months of Islamist rule, the people of Timbuktu risked their lives to preserve the artefacts of their ancient heritage.
Francois Hollande is due to visit Timbuktu during his visit to the West African country this weekend. He will be welcomed by many.
Downing Street have been explaining what offers the UK have made to the military effort in Mali.