Thousands of civilians remain trapped in Sri Lankan war zone
The UN evacuated about 300 people Thursday but human rights groups say a humanitarian crisis is looming.
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Civilians have borne the brunt of recent fighting between the Sri Lankan military and LTTE forces, adds The Guardian.Skip to next paragraph
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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said hundreds had been killed or wounded in the last week. Many were stranded without adequate treatment in poorly equipped hospitals, and the ICRC and UN arranged a convoy to carry them to a government hospital in Vavuniya, outside the war zone, in the north of the island.
According to Agence France-Presse, human rights groups are predicting a humanitarian disaster in the region if the military offensive persists. (Click here for a map of the region from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense.)
"The situation for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable civilians trapped in the Wanni war zone is becoming increasingly dangerous," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, referring to the island's northern jungles.
"Both the government and the LTTE need to take urgent action to prevent large-scale civilian deaths."
The United Nations, the European Union, Canada and India have added their voices to concerns raised by local and international rights groups for the safety of civilians.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday that a "major humanitarian crisis" was unfolding.
Sri Lankan authorities, meanwhile, are playing down the predicament of civilians trapped in the northeastern battle zone, reports the BBC.
On Wednesday Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse denied that the fighting had led to a humanitarian crisis in the north.
He told the BBC that he had a policy of "zero" civilian casualties and that the ICRC and UN were wrong about the situation in the north.
"I'm not saying they are lying but they are exaggerating," Mr Rajapakse said.
He also ruled out any ceasefire for humanitarian reasons, saying it would give the Tigers a chance to reorganise.