"Am I therefore become your enemy,because I TELL YOU THE TRUTH...?"
(Galatians 4:16)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Red Cross:"Sri Lankans in "catastrophic" situation"

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka-Tens of thousands of civilians trapped in Sri Lanka's northern war zone face a "catastrophic" situation, the Red Cross said Tuesday, amid fears a final assault against the Tamil Tiger rebels would lead to a dramatic rise in casualties.The United Nations and others have called for a negotiated truce to allow civilians to leave the rebel-held coastal strip-and the government says more than 52,000 had escaped since Monday.But it has refused to heed the international pleas to halt the fighting, saying it is on the verge of crushing the separatists and putting an end to the 25-year-old war.The U.N. estimated more than 4,500 civilians have been killed in the past three months.The rebels said more than 1,000 civilians died Monday in a government raid, while the government said it rescued thousands after they broke through a barrier built by the insurgents that protects their last stronghold.Human rights groups say the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are holding many people in the enclave against their will and using them as human shields. Those groups have also accused the government of indiscriminate shelling in the region. Both sides deny the allegations.Thousands of civilians also fled in packed small boats, and they were picked up by navy patrols and transported to camps where Tamils who have escaped the war are being held. More than 2,000 people in about 100 boats were picked up Monday.The Red Cross said about 50,000 civilians were still stranded, while Human Rights Watch put the number between 50,000 and 100,000.The U.S. government released satellite images Tuesday showing about 25,000 tents housing civilians squeezed into the last small strip controlled by the rebels, a coastal strip of about only 8 square miles (21 square kilometers).The State Department estimated about 125,000 people were in the conflict zone before the exodus over the past two days.A worker for Doctors Without Borders said hundreds of wounded were arriving at her hospital in Vavuniya, south of the war zone, in government-arranged buses, and some had died en route. The hospital is overcrowded with 1,200 people being accommodated in a facility with only 400 beds, said mental health officer Karen Stewart, according to a statement from the aid group.U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres was concerned about the "dramatic situation"for civilians still in the war zone, said commission spokesman Ron Redmond. "There are innocent civilians-women and children-caught in the middle of the conflict...so the high commissioner is saying there should be a pause in the hostilities and the LTTE should allow civilians to leave," Redmond said.Military spokesman Brig.Udaya Nanayakkara denied that 1,000 civilians died, saying 17 civilians were killed Monday by rebel shelling and by three suicide bombers."Our troops are rescuing the trapped civilians. It's the LTTE which is preventing civilians from fleeing," Nanayakkara said.It was impossible to get independent accounts of casualties because journalists are restricted from the war zone.
Folowing,Raw Video: Sri Lankan Civilians Escape Civil War...

PICTURE:In this photo released by the Sri Lankan army Tuesday, April 21, 2009, ethnic Tamil civilians who escaped from the Tamil Tiger controlled areas are seen arriving Monday, April 20, 2009 at the government controlled areas in Putumattalan, north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka.(AP Photo/Sri Lankan Army, HO)
Associated Press writers Bharatha Mallawarachi in Colombo and Eliane Engeler in Geneva contributed to this report.
As in the days of Noah...

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