As Sri Lanka’s military continues its increasingly bloody military offensive in the breakaway northern portion of the nation, scores of civilian deaths have been reported and a quarter of a million civilians have been put at direct risk. Yet the Sri Lankan government insists its attacks will continue, with one minister saying “we are determined not to have a ceasefire.”
But under growing pressure from the Red Cross, President Mahinda Rajapaksa says his military will allow a “48-hour window” in which the 250,000 civilians who have been forced to flee into the dense jungle to escape the advancing troops will be allowed to flee to some other undefined “secure environment.”
Yet with the government’s history of haphazard offensives – they declared a safe zone for civilians last week and then attacked one of their own makeshift hospitals inside it – the Tamil population is unlikely to find any truly secure environment anywhere on the island.
The growing humanitarian crisis has not gone entirely unnoticed internationally, and protests have been held worldwide: most notably in the Tamil-heavy southern portion of India and downtown Toronto. Yet by and large the international community, perhaps weary of the 25+ year long conflict, has remained largely silent. This has left the Sri Lankan government free to launch its final push against the rebels, and while it may succeed in destroying this particular rebel faction, history suggests the heavy civilian toll will ensure the separatist sentiment to continue for years to come.
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