Hospital attacked as Sri Lanka killing continues

Hospital attacked as Sri Lanka killing continues

By staff writers
14 May 2009

Amid continued calls for restraint from the US, the UN, governments across the world, NGOs and faith groups, the slaughter in Sri Lanka continues, with a further 50 people killed yesterday in a devastating attack on a hospital.

News agencies report that artillery shells tore through a hospital packed with wounded civilians in Sri Lanka's war zone on Wednesday 13 May, killing at least 50 people.

The attack set an ambulance ablaze and forced the medical staff to huddle in bunkers for safety, doctors said.

Health workers at the makeshift medical facility talked of being so overwhelmed by the crush of the wounded and the continuous shelling of the area that they could do little but give gauze and bandages to around 1,000 patients waiting for treatment.

The strike on the hospital came as the Sri Lankan government persisted with its offensive to destroy the battered Tamil (LTTE) rebels and end their quarter-decade armed struggle for a separate, independent Tamil homeland.

There were immediate accusations that the attack was an act of revenge. Although there is a government-imposed news blackout in the areas where the assaults are fiercest, doctors from the hospital concerned had recently spoken out to the media against the attacks.

The Sri Lankan government continues to deny any atrocities and blame all incidents on the Tamil Tigers, who in turn blame everything on the government. Human rights groups say that both sides are to blame. But the ruthless assault of the authorities, without apparent regard for civilians, has come under particular criticism.

Since the weekend, there has been a wave of artillery bombardments across the war zone which has barely let up in five days, health workers said. Doctors claim that the weekend attacks alone may have killed as many as 1,000 people.

Human Rights Watch says satellite images and witness testimony contradict the claim by the Sri Lankan authorities that they are not using heavy weapons and has accused the government and the rebels of using the estimated 50,000 civilians packed into the tiny coastal strip controlled by the rebels as "cannon fodder."

The shelling was so intense yesterday that a Red Cross ferry which was waiting off the coast to deliver food aid and evacuate the wounded had to turn back for a second day, HRW said.

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