UN concerned over shelling of Hospital in Sri Lanka
The UN has expressed its major concern about the fate of an estimated 250,000 civilians who have been trapped in the conflict zone during an escalation of Sri Lanka's civil war after government forces shelled a hospital in the rebel held area.
The military mounted a renewed offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels in the north-east of the country last year and is accusing the rebels of refusing to allow civilians to flee the area as the fighting continues.
Gordon Weiss of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the hospital, in the north-east of the island nation, was shelled numerous times on Sunday, resulting in the killing of 11 people altogether, including one nurse.
Weiss said that it is uncertain where the shellfire came from but that his office had notified both the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) about the damage.
The hospital has around 600 patients, with new people arriving all the time. Hundreds among them are critically injured and cannot be treated there.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is trying to negotiate a new convoy out of the area and into Government-controlled territory, where the patients can be treated properly, Weiss said.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme is continuing negotiations with the Government to secure an adequate window for the next humanitarian convoy into the area, though no convoy has gotten in since last week.
The main priority of the UN right now is preserving the lives of the trapped civilians, Weiss told the UN News Centre in an interview over the weekend.