The only hospital in northern Sri Lanka’s war zone came under fire again today, leaving at least 15 people dead, according to multiple news reports. A Red Cross worker also died during recent shelling. As fighting has intensified in recent days, the Red Cross, the only international aid agency operating in the area, said it has struggled to reach the government declared ‘no fire’ zone; its last mission to deliver food and medical supplies and to evacuate some of the wounded and sick took place on Saturday.
The weekend marked the start of one of the deadliest periods since the start of the government offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) last December. At least 378 people were killed and hundreds were injured in heavy shelling in rebel controlled areas near a makeshift hospital in Mullaittivu in northeastern Sri Lanka. Describing the attacks as a “bloodbath,” the U.N. said that over 100 of those killed were children. A doctor said that the number of civilian deaths could be as high as 1,000 as a result of the shelling over the course of the two days. Bodies continue to be uncovered in bunkers and under tarpaulin sheets where people were taking refuge. As is typical after any attack on civilians in the region, the government and the rebels exchanged accusations over who was responsible.
Asserting that the Sri Lankan government is guilty of war crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently released a tragic account of at least 30 incidents of the use of heavy artillery on permanent and makeshift hospitals in the northern Vanni region since December 2008. Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, reminded readers that "hospitals are supposed to be sanctuaries from shelling, not targets."
This recent report by al Jazeera provides a glimpse into the humanitarian tragedy:
Laura Heaton contributed to this post.