Published: Feb 26, 2011 8:47 PM EST
Updated: Feb 26, 2011 5:52 PM EST

LONDON (AP) - British military planes entered Libyan air space in a daring rescue of more than 150 civilians from desert locations, officials said Saturday.

The C-130 Hercules planes, carrying Britons and other nationals, safely landed in Malta after picking up the civilians from desert locations south of Benghazi, Defense Secretary Liam Fox said.

The Royal Air Force rescue mission was bold because few planes have been able to fly through Libyan air space. It was not immediately clear if it was a British special forces mission, but the SAS has been on stand by for an evacuation mission of those stuck in oil fields, according to U.K. media reports.

"I can confirm that two RAF C-130 Hercules aircraft have evacuated more than 150 civilians from desert locations south of Benghazi," Fox said.

He added that the frigate HMS Cumberland was returning to Benghazi from Malta to evacuate any remaining "entitled persons" from there.

Mediterranean ports, meanwhile, overflowed with thousands of evacuees from strife-torn Libya on Saturday, and thousands more foreigners were still scrambling to flee the North African nation by sea, air or land as the security situation around the capital Tripoli deteriorated.

More than 2,800 Chinese workers landed in Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete aboard a Greek ship. Further to the west, another 2,200 Chinese arrived in Valletta, the capital of Malta, after a long journey from the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi. Hours earlier, in the dark of night, a U.S-chartered ferry dropped off over 300 passengers in Valletta who spent three days waiting to leave Libya's chaotic capital.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)