International Appeals for LTTE Surrender, Army Cease-fire Ignored in Sri Lanka

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.  

The 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

At stake 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.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, the disaster management and human rights minister, tells VOA News the 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 Samarasinghe.

U.S. President Barack Obama called the rebels' use of the civilians as human shields "deplorable" and said they should surrender.

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."

"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," 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.

"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," said Samarasinghe.

The military says it is the rebels who are using artillery and killing innocent people.

Rebels are not surrendering

The 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.

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.

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.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs