2ND LEAD

SLA shelling on Vaharai hospital triggers exodus

[TamilNet, Friday, 19 January 2007, 06:02 GMT]
Sri Lanka Army stepped up shelling on Vaharai hospital Thursday night forcing 15,000 civilians to flee the Vaharai hospital area. 9000 Tamil civilians, denied basic needs, were forced to flee towards Kajuwatte entry and exit point Friday early morning, according to Vaharai Divisional Secretary, S. Giritharan. 200 tractors with fleeing civilians have reached Kajuwatte. Many women and children were fleeing on foot and bicycles. The only doctor at the hospital, T. Varatharajan, said the civilian IDPs who had sought refuge in the hospital area, were forced to flee as heavy shelling was stepped up during the early hours on Friday. Six civilians were injured Thursday night.

Around 6000 civilians were fleeing northwards from the hospital, according to initial reports. The hospital was closed down.

The SLA artillery shelling also targeted the civilians who were fleeing northwards.

A group of civilians were also fleeing towards Mankerni area by boats.

Batticoloa district secretary Sundaram Arumainayagan has sent a team of officials to Redithenna in Welikanda area and Kajuwatte to receive the fleeing civilians, sources at Batticaloa District Secretariat said.

SLA stationed at Mankerny and Kajuwatta camps have been continuously pounding the besieged Vaharai area with artillery shells from Thursday morning.

Despite an urgent message passed to ICRC by the hospital authorities Thursday, notifying the artillery attack on civililan refuge, between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m., the artillery attack on hopsital vicinty was stepped up in the evening at 5:15 p.m. and the situation worsened early morning Friday.

Targeting of medical facilities is a serious breach of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) that applies to both internal and international armed conflicts.


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