The Sri Lankan military continued its attacks against the separatist north, yesterday alone killing 52 civilians and wounding around 80. At this point the offensive is confined to the last roughly 30 square miles of coastal land left to be conquered, but as the military has pressed forward into civilian populations, they have driven roughly 250,000 Tamil civilians into this tiny sliver of land.
Now, that area and those refugees have lost their final hospital. The Red Cross had to abandon the overcrowded facility along with hundreds of wounded civilians today, after the Sri Lankan military attacked them. According to the United Nations the attack involved the use of cluster bombs.
The Sri Lankan military denies that the attack, just one of many attacks on hospitals in the past few weeks, involved cluster munitions, and indeed they deny even having such weapons. This is bound to spawn the question: if Sri Lanka has no cluster bombs why did they refuse to sign the ban on cluster bombs?
The use of cluster bombs is certainly among the least of the problems of wartime Sri Lanka, which has deliberately attacked hospitals and other civilian targets on a regular basis and has threatened media and aid workers it feels are not sufficiently pro-war. Yet the use of cluster munitions in a densely populated civilian region – against a civilian target no less, is likely to be a durable reminder of the brutality of this offensive, and when they finally declare victory it is unlikely to be forgotten by those Tamil civilians who are left alive.