Cornering international appeals Sri Lanka went ahead with its military offensive to destroy the Tamil rebels on Thursday. Thousands of civilians are still trapped in the war zone.
The government has vowed to end the 25-year-old civil war and has cornered the separatist rebels in a tiny strip of coastal land. Recent fighting in the area has killed hundreds of civilians.
According to Media Minister Lakshman Abeywardena, the military was continuing its offensive.
“There is no change in the government stance, despite pressure coming from several countries,” he said.
Yesterday, US President Barack Obama insisted that rebels put down their arms and set free an estimated 50000 civilians whom they used as human shields. He also admonished the government to stop firing artillery into the war zone.
“Now’s the time, I believe, to put aside some of the political issues that are involved and to put the lives of the men and women and children who are innocently caught in the crossfire, to put them first,” Obama said in Washington.
Obamas’ comment followed an artillery shelling on a makeshift hospital in the war zone in which at least 50 people were killed and an ambulance set ablaze.
In response, both sides welcomed his appeal for an end to the civil war, but ignored his criticism of their conduct.
Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona said the government was “extremely reassured” by Obama’s call for the rebels to lay down their weapons and release the civilians.
He denied the government was firing artillery into the densely packed war zone, but the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch says satellite images and witness testimony contradict that claim.