Both sides in Sri Lanka's civil war are brushing off a non-binding
statement of the U.N. Security Council demanding they protect the lives
of tens of thousands of civilians trapped by the fighting. Medical and
humanitarian workers say shelling in the tiny combat zone continues. Sri Lankan officials say thousands of Tamils are fleeing the area by
wading across a lagoon despite rebels shooting at the civilians.
U.N. Security Council's appeal for both sides in the civil war to
respect international humanitarian law is falling on deaf ears amid an
apparent ceaseless barrage of gunfire and shelling.
Civilians trapped in war zone
are the lives of Tamil civilians trapped in a sandy war zone between
the coast and a lagoon where the last remaining hard core rebel
fighters are facing an assault from several Army divisions.
Samarasinghe, the disaster management and human rights minister, tells
VOA News the military offensive is also a hostage rescue operation.
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
U.S. President Barack Obama called the rebels'
use of the civilians as human shields "deplorable" and said they should
Hundreds of civilians dead
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.
In remarks Wednesday, Mr. Obama said Sri Lanka needs to act responsibly not to worsen, what he termed, "a humanitarian crisis."
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," he said.
Government denies using mortars
Government officials here bristle
at suggestions they are using mortars in the two-square kilometer area
where the civilians are trapped.
Disaster Management Minister
Samarasinghe blames the perception on information disseminated by the
rebels and their sympathizers, including doctors, in the combat zone.
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," said Samarasinghe.
The military says it is the rebels who are using artillery and killing innocent people.
Rebels are not surrendering
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are giving no indication of surrender,
although they are surrounded by Sri Lankan army and naval forces on the
northeastern coast with superior numbers and firepower.
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
The rebels have waged a civil war for the past
quarter century for an independent Tamil homeland in the north of the
island. Their tactics of suicide bombings and assassinations have led
to the group being labeled as a terrorist organization by many
countries, including the United States.