Article published on the 2009-01-17 Latest update 2009-01-18 12:29 TU
Around 170 people moved from rebel-controlled areas on Friday and made it to the government-controlled north.
The ICRC has warned of a “massive displacement” and is concerned about the humanitarian situation.
“People are really squeezed into a corner of the country, which has many consequences […] most of the people are being displaced from their homes,” said Paul Castella, the head of the ICRC delegation in Sri Lanka.
“Almost the entire population is now entirely dependent on aid coming from outside the area,” Castella told RFI.
“There is no safe place anymore, where the civilians can try to settle down, all of them of them are possibly in range of different types of weapons, they lie in battlefield itself,” he said from Colombo.
“There are more and more, who try to cross the frontline, in order to seek refuge in the government controlled area,” he said.
Helicopter gunships and ground troops attacked positions in Dharmapuram on Friday, and the army claimed it inflicted heavy casualties on the rebels. But comments on a pro-rebel website contradicted these claims, saying that 51 soldiers were killed.
“It is very difficult to say anything about these figures,” Castella said.
The Defense Ministry said that they captured the northeastern area of Ramanadapuram on Saturday, and that fighter jets were used to bomb areas in the Mullaittivu district to support ground operations.
But the ICRC believes the government assault on the rebels is making it difficult to help those trapped in the Tiger stronghold.
“There is little space, so they cannot push them back anymore […] the population is really trapped, and how do you distinguish who is taking part […] and who isn’t,” said Castella.
He told RFI that, as the fighting intensifies, it is becoming harder to negotiate.
“Fortunately, we have been accepted to play this role of mutual intermediary between the two warring parties for the last few years […] but as the fighting increases […] you can imagine that negotiations are becoming more difficult.”
And it is becoming increasing difficult for the ICRC to validate the numbers of those killed in the conflict.
“We transferred dead bodies back, whether military, or LTTE fighters […] we rely on the two parties to hand over the bodies that they have recovered from the battlefield, so we are not sure they have recovered all of them.”
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