Rebels in Sri Lanka claim some 150,000 people are on the brink of
starvation in the territory held by the Tamil Tigers in the northeast.
The Sri Lankan government says the rebels are to blame for the plight
of the civilians in the remaining area controlled by the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The accusations come amid rising international
concern over mass civilian suffering in the dwindling war zone.
posting on a pro-rebel Web site, attributed to the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam, claims 150,000 civilians are on the brink of starvation.
Lanka's government says the civilians - it puts the number at no more
than 10,000 - are hostages of the rebels, who claim the military is
blocking desperately needed food.
The head of the Defense
Ministry's media center, Lakshman Hulugalle, tells VOA News it is the
Tigers who are to blame for anyone starving on the northeastern coast.
we have sent to those areas is not being distributed to the innocent
people. It's been robbed by LTTE. This is the only government in the
world feeding terrorists and fighting against terrorists," he said.
United Nations spokesman tells VOA the world body has "no information
about government food going in" recently to the affected area. It says
at least 50,000 people are trapped by the fighting.
Tigers have seen their territory shaved down to less than eight square
kilometers amid a final offensive by the military.
spokesman Hulugalle says the rebel remnants - he estimates at 200 to
300 combatants - could be instantly vanquished if not for the
precautions government forces are taking to minimize civilian
"For the Sri Lanka government and for the forces
it's a matter of a few hours. If not for these innocent Tamils we
should have crushed LTTE within hours," he said.
Nations' humanitarian chief, John Holmes, is to meet Sunday here with
government officials. The United Nations says he will push for enhanced
humanitarian missions in and around the conflict zone where access to
the tens of thousands of displaced people is very limited.
White House, in a statement, is calling on both sides to immediately
cease fighting and allow civilians to exit the conflict area. It says
aid organizations and journalists should have access to those refugees
who have already escaped.