Nine killed in Sri Lanka as hospital shelled

February 2nd, 2009 - 12:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Feb 2 (Xinhua) At least nine people were killed and 20 injured when a hospital in northern Sri Lanka’s war zone Mullaitivu was shelled, a spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Monday.The Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital in the Mullaitivu district, partly controlled by the Tamil Tigers, was directly hit thrice Sunday, ICRC spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne said.

“Nine people were killed and 20 others injured as the kitchen, the church and the children’s ward of the hospital were hit by the shelling,” said Wijeratne.

She said the ICRC has no idea where the shelling came from as government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were engaged in fierce battles in the area.

She called on both parties to respect international humanitarian law and ensure safe evacuation of the patients.

The hospital currently has over 500 patients, some of whom are still waiting to be transferred to the government-controlled area for more adequate treatment, the ICRC said in a statement.

“We’re shocked that the hospital was hit … Wounded and sick people, medical personnel and medical facilities are all protected by international humanitarian law. Under no circumstance may they be directly attacked,” Paul Castella, head of the Colombo delegation of the ICRC, said in the statement.

The ICRC has been supporting the hospital’s staff by setting up a makeshift structure for triage, the process of prioritising patients based on the severity of their condition, receiving ambulances and helping to clean the facility. It has also provided mattresses for patients who find themselves in the corridors because there is no longer any room in the wards.

The LTTE is now confined to a small jungle area in Mullaitivu as 95 percent of its territories in the north and east have been captured by the troops since July 2006.

Claiming discrimination at the hands of majority Sinhalese-dominated governments, the LTTE has been fighting for more than two decades to set up an independent Tamil homeland.

More than 70,000 people have been killed so far in one of Asia’ s longest civil wars.

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