News

Thousands of Civilians Flee Sri Lankan War Zone

Multimedia

The Sri Lankan military says thousands of civilians are braving Tamil rebel attacks to wade across a lagoon and escape the northern war zone. A military spokesman says at least 2,000 people managed to escape. Meanwhile, both sides in the civil war are brushing off a non-binding statement of the United Nations Security Council to protect the lives of tens of thousands of civilians trapped by the fighting.

Sri Lanka's military has released video showing aerial images of civilians fleeing across a lagoon to escape the war zone where government troops have surrounded the Tamil Tiger rebels. The military says the civilians were under fire from the rebels as they fled.

This comes as both sides in the civil war have ignored the U.N. Security Council's appeal to respect international humanitarian law, and continue to engage in a constant barrage of gunfire and shelling.

At stake are the lives of thousands of Tamil civilians trapped in a narrow sliver of territory, where the last remaining hard core rebel fighters are facing an army assault.

The government says its military offensive is also a hostage rescue operation.

"The very fact that we have to move inch by inch, fight man to man, street to street and ensuring that civilians are not affected by the fighting that takes place is enough testimony to the bona fides of what we have been saying - that this is a humanitarian operation," said Human Rights Minister Manhinda Samarasinghe.

Shelling in recent days is blamed for the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including children. But with no access by outsiders to the combat zone there is no way to definitively determine who is responsible and how many people have been killed. These scenes, which cannot be authenticated, were released by a pro-rebel network.

In remarks Wednesday about the situation, President Obama denounced the rebels' use of civilians as human shields but he also urged the Sri Lankan government to act responsibly. "The government should stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives, including several hospitals, and the government should live up to its commitment to not use heavy weapons in the conflict zone," the president said.

Government officials here bristle at suggestions they are using mortars in the two-square kilometer area where tens of thousands of civilians are trapped.

Minister Samarasinghe, in a VOA interview, blamed the rebels and their sympathizers for the reports. "This is a very clever propaganda ploy that they have been consistently employing internationally to cultivate the feeling that it is the Sri Lankan government forces who are in fact shelling," he said.

The military says it is the rebels who are, in fact, firing artillery and killing innocent people.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are giving no indication of surrender although they are surrounded by Sri Lankan forces.

The military is reluctant to pause while it is on the verge of crushing the rebels because that might hinder attempts to capture or kill Tamil Tiger leaders.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs