Officials in Sri Lanka say government forces killed 40 Tamil rebels as soldiers resisted an attack on strategic areas in the country's northeast.

Military officials say rebels attacked army positions early Wednesday, around the port of Trincomalee. Five Sri Lankan soldiers were killed in that attack. The rebels say they overran the government positions, but authorities in Colombo deny they lost control of any territory.

Rebels also fired mortar shells into a civilian area near Trincomalee, killing at least two civilians.

On Tuesday, Tamil rebels attacked a ship in Trincomalee harbor carrying more than 800 troops, killing four sailors.

Sri Lankan warplanes have mainly focused on reclaiming a rebel-held water reservoir in the same area.

The renewed violence has claimed the lives of more than 800 people this year, and international observers warn the 2002 cease-fire agreement could break down completely.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or L.T.T.E., have been fighting for more than two decades to win an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's minority Tamil population. More than 65,000 people have died in the conflict.