French aircraft have begun bombing rebel positions in the northern Malian town of Gao, residents are telling the Reuters news agency.
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.