Sri Lanka's military says it has launched airstrikes on rebel sites in northern parts of the country, following rebel artillery attacks.

Officials Saturday said at least 11 soldiers were killed and 53 others were wounded in the fighting on the Jaffna peninsula.  They said Tamil Tiger rebels provoked the fighting by opening fire with artillery strikes against Sri Lankan troops.

Government officials also said they sent a naval ship to the peninsula to evacuate nearly 800 civilians trapped in the area.

Thousands of people have been stranded in northern Sri Lanka since rebels launched new attacks last month.

The Tamil Tiger rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland in the north and east since the early 1980s.  Tens of thousands of people have died in the violence.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.