While members of the U.N. Security Council met informally in New York yesterday to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka’s war zone, there were claims of more civilian deaths from shelling in the zone. The opposition Tamil Tigers accused government forces of killing at least 45 civilians in a fresh artillery attack, while the Sri Lankan government has denied any knowledge of the incident. Since independent observers are barred from the conflict area, it’s impossible to confirm claims made by either side.
The Sri Lankan government has in recent months successfully reconquered most of the territory once controlled by the Tigers, who are seeking an independent state for the Tamil minority in the north and east of the island. The Tigers are now confined to a small coastal strip, about two square miles, in northeastern Sri Lanka. With the Tigers are an estimated 50,000 civilians who have been prevented by the Tigers from leaving the conflict area. Hundreds of civilians have been killed or injured since the beginning of this year due to the fighting.
After the informal session at the U.N. Security Council yesterday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner asked a very pointed question:
“Are we waiting, all of us, to the end of the bombing, to the end of any life – not only suffering, but any life in this siege pocket?”