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64 Reported Killed in Sri Lanka Hospital Attack

At least 64 civilians have reportedly been killed in Sri Lanka after an attack on a makeshift hospital in the northern war zone.

The pro-Tamil website Tamilnet said two artillery shells fired by government forces hit the hospital at Mulliavaikal in the Mullaittivu district on early Saturday.

A Sri Lankan Military spokesman, Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, denied the accusation, saying soldiers were not using heavy weaponry. The military said Tamil Tiger rebels may have set off explosions near the hospital.

The Associated Press news agency quoted an unidentified government health official who said another 87 people were wounded in the attack inside rebel-held territory.

Sri Lanka's military said Friday that troops have cornered Tamil Tiger rebels to a five-kilometer-long strip of territory in the northeast and are poised for their final assault.

The United Nations and aid agencies have accused the government of not doing enough to protect some 50,000 civilians trapped in the war zone with the rebels. The U.N. has also said Tamil Tigers are using civilians as human shields.

Sri Lankan military commanders said some Tamil civilians, including children, have been forced to take up arms by the rebels and fight the army. The commanders also said no civilians have been killed during the government's offensive against the Tamil Tigers in recent months.

Sri Lanka has rejected repeated international calls for a cease-fire, saying a truce will only benefit the rebel group.

Tamil Tiger rebels have been fighting for an independent homeland since 1983. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict.