Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

"Why Are So Many Children Dying in Gaza?"

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Seleka calls for partition

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria: One Hundred Days and Counting (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria: One Hundred Days and Counting

Read more

FOCUS

Can Chancellor Merkel's winning streak last?

Read more

FOCUS

Hunger in a fertile land...

Read more

ENCORE!

High-tech acting king Andy Serkis on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Read more

REPORTERS

Hong Kong in rebellion against the 'motherland'

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

Dalia Grybauskaite, President of the Republic of Lithuania

Read more

  • Israel faces heightened diplomatic pressure as Gaza violence rages

    Read more

  • Botched Arizona execution takes nearly two hours

    Read more

  • In pictures: Thousands march for Gaza peace in Paris

    Read more

  • Bomb attacks leave scores dead in north Nigeria

    Read more

  • Netherlands holds day of mourning for victims of flight MH17

    Read more

  • Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down over rebel-held territory

    Read more

  • Ryanair ordered to pay back €9.6m in illegal state aid to France

    Read more

  • Gaza protests: ‘France imported the Mideast conflict a long time ago’

    Read more

  • Video: Fear, death and mourning in Gaza’s Khan Younis

    Read more

  • TransAsia Airways Taiwan crash leaves dozens dead

    Read more

  • Poland’s Rafal Majka wins 17th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Young riders raise French hopes for Tour de France

    Read more

  • Defying UK, France to proceed with warships sale to Russia

    Read more

  • US courts issue conflicting reports on Obamacare

    Read more

  • Video: Lebanon fears fallout from regional turmoil

    Read more

Asia-pacific

Government tells civilians to get into "safety zone"

Video by James CREEDON

Latest update : 2009-02-03

Sri Lanka's government warned civilians, trapped in the island's warzone between government troops and rebels, to enter a safety zone after an attack on a hospital killed at least nine on Sunday. Up to 250,000 civilians may be in the area.

Watch FRANCE 24's special report: 'Along Sri Lanka's vanishing front line'

 

AFP - Sri Lanka issued a stark warning to civilians trapped in fighting with Tamil Tiger rebels Monday, a day after shells hit a crowded hospital in the northeast combat zone, killing at least nine people.
  
A government statement said the fight against the cornered Tigers was at "the decisive stage" and that it could not guarantee the security of tens of thousands of non-combatants living outside a designated "safety zone" in rebel-held territory.
  
"The government calls on all civilians to enter the demarcated 'safety zone' as soon as possible," the statement said.
  
"The government cannot be responsible for the safety and security of civilians still living among LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) terrorists," it added.
  
A year-long military offensive has pushed the once-powerful LTTE back into 300-square kilometre (110-square mile) jungle area on the island's northeast coast.
  
The United Nations says up to 250,000 non-combatants are trapped in the area. The Sri Lankan government says the figure is closer to 120,000.
  
Aid agencies say hundreds of civilians may already have been killed in the crossfire and scores more injured, including children as young as 10 days old.
  
A hospital in the area with 500 patients, took direct hits in two separate shelling incidents on Sunday, aid agencies and medical workers said.
  
At least nine patients were killed and 15 injured.
  
"We're shocked that the hospital was hit, and this for the second time in recent weeks," said Paul Castella, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo.
  
The ICRC did not say which side was responsible for the shelling, but the army denied involvement, saying it was carried out by the rebels in a bid to "discredit" the military.
  
"We know the exact location of the hospital. We will not hit it," said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara. "We are ready at any moment to arrange safe passage for civilians in that area."
  
With the Tigers on the brink of defeat, the government has rejected international calls for a ceasefire, saying it intends to wipe out the rebel force and finally end Asia's longest-running ethnic conflict.
  
Tiger rebels took up arms in their fight for a separate Tamil homeland in 1972.
  
There was heavy fighting in the narrow strip of land where the rebels have been cornered, the defence ministry said, with war planes bombing suspected Tiger positions.
  
Military officials said jet aircraft carried out five bombing sorties on Monday but details were not immediately available.
  
The ministry said a total of 46 Tiger rebels were killed in separate ground clashes, but did not say if security forces suffered any casualties.
  
The government has accused the Tigers of using civilians as a human shield and preventing them from moving into the safety zone on the edge of the rebel-held territory.
  
The Tigers insist the non-combatants are free to leave, but say they are scared of moving to areas under military control.
  
T. Varatharajah, the regional director of health services stationed in the damaged hospital, said the shells had hit the staff quarters, the female ward, the mortuary and the kitchen.
  
"It's a very tense situation now," Varatharajah told AFP by telephone. "There is no proper power or water supply and staff are spending their time in the bunkers in between treating patients."
  
The doctor said many patients' relatives were also staying in the hospital grounds, bringing the number of people inside the compound to around 1,000.
  
"Most of the staff have also moved in with their families," he added.
  
The UN arranged an evacuation of some 350 wounded people and their relatives from the combat zone last week and negotiations are underway for the transfer of a further 250 patients from the hospital.
  
The government has blocked any independent media access to the conflict area and to the camps housing those displaced civilians who have managed to flee the fighting.

Date created : 2009-02-02

COMMENT(S)