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Truce Monitors: Recent Fighting Creates Humanitarian Crisis in Sri Lanka


International ceasefire monitors say the recent fighting between Sri Lankan rebels and government forces has killed at least 200 civilians and displaced tens of thousands from their homes.

A statement from Norwegian-led truce monitors accuses the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels of serious violations of a 2002 truce. The monitors say these include launching military actions against each other, creating a refugee crisis, and blocking the entry of monitors and aid workers into conflict areas to help trapped civilians.

The truce monitors say the fighting has displaced at least 200,000 people and created a serious humanitarian crisis in the north and the east of the country.

The spokesman for the monitoring mission, Thorfinur Omarsson, says civilians in the Jaffna Peninsula in the north are the worst hit, because they are facing an acute shortage of essential supplies. The peninsula is linked to the mainland by a single highway, and many supplies have to be shipped in by sea.

"The flow of goods and medicine is in jeopardy, occasionally there is a shipment of goods, but normally we do not know, we cannot calculate if it will happen or not," said Omarsson. "The road, A9, which is the main road up to the north, that road has been closed for one and a half months. And that means it has been impossible to deliver any goods by trucks up to Vanni and then north to Jaffna. In Jaffna there are no schools operating, and the situation is terrible concerning electricity, fuel and so on."

The monitors say at least 200 civilians have been killed in the fighting that has taken place since July. The killing of 17 Sri Lankan aid workers last month and the hacking to death of 10 Muslim laborers recently are some of the worst incidents of violence against civilians.

The monitors have called on both sides to realize the gravity of the situation and do whatever is possible to move toward peace.

The statement came as Norway, which brokered the 2002 truce, renewed efforts to restart a stalled peace process and halt the upsurge in fighting. Two Norwegian envoys are due to travel to Colombo next week, to try to arrange talks between the two sides in Oslo next month.

The civil conflict erupted in 1983, when the rebels began fighting for a separate homeland for the ethnic-Tamil community. The 2002 truce had raised hopes that a quarter century of fighting in the country was drawing to a close, but violence has escalated since a new government came to power last year.

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