Aid organizations are hopeful a statement by Sri Lanka's president will
allow additional sick and wounded civilians caught in the northern war
zone to get to safety.
Aid organizations in Sri Lanka are
optimistic they will soon be able to assist more civilians caught
between government and rebel forces.
Proposed cease-fire would allow for civilian evacuations
The country's president,
Mahinda Rajapaksa, is calling for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
to allow, during a 48-hour period, innocents trapped in the war zone to
Sri Lankan government and military officials deny reports they have declared a cease-fire to allow evacuations.
spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sarai
Wijeratne, says its workers need assurances from both sides to conduct
evacuations and that has only been happening on a weekly basis.
has been the pattern in the last couple of weeks. But, of course, we
are now hopeful that it will happen more often. So that's why the ICRC
is looking forward to actually seizing this opportunity as a result of
the announcement made by the president to attempt other evacuations of
sick and wounded patients," said Wijeratne.
It is estimated that
a quarter million Tamils may be caught in the crossfire. More than 200
injured and ill people were moved out of a hospital in a rebel-held
town on Thursday.
Sri Lanka is accusing the Tamil Tigers of placing artillery in a declared safe zone.
Human rights violations alleged on both sides
officials and diplomats say both sides are violating human rights. They
contend the rebels are holding hostage many civilians and that the army
has launched heavy attacks in populated areas.
heavy civilian casualties this week are inflaming passions in the
Indian state of Tamil Nadu. There, lawyers are on strike and
demonstrations are being held to oppose what is perceived as Indian
government support of Sri Lanka's military push to wipe out the Tamil
rebel fighting force.
An emotional funeral took place Friday
in Tamil Nadu for a 26-year-old newspaper journalist identified as K.
Muthukumar, who burned himself to death in front of the central
government office in Chennai to protest Indian government policies
towards Sri Lanka.
Vaiyapuri Gopalswamy, leader of the MDMK, a regional Indian pro-Tamil political party, spoke to the mourners.
The MDMK secretary-general says he hails the young man as a martyr and a champion who sacrificed himself for the Tamil cause.
The Tamil Tigers appear to be on the verge of defeat after fighting for more than 25 years for a separate ethnic homeland.