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Sri Lanka: displaced civilians killed in air strike

11-07-1995 News Release 95/30

Geneva (ICRC) - On 9 July the Sri Lankan armed forces launched a large-scale military offensive against the positions of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) north of the city of Jaffna. The operation, involving intensive artillery shelling and air strikes, immediately forced tens of thousands of civilians to leave the area. Many of the displaced sought shelter in churches and temples, including several hundred people who took refuge in the Church of St Peter and Paul in Navalay.

According to eye-witness accounts, this church and several adjacent buildings were hit by further air force strikes at 4.30 p.m. the same day. During the attack 65 people were killed and 150 wounded, including women and children. That evening and into the night Sri Lanka Red Cross staff evacuated most of the wounded by ambulance to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital. Delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) present the next morning at the scene of the attack noted the widespread damage and measured the extent of the tragedy: many of the bodies had not yet been removed from the rubble.

Deeply concerned by the series of violent acts that have claimed innocent victims, the ICRC calls on the parties involved to respect civilian lives, property and places of refuge. It also urges them to respect the protected zone around the Jaffna Teaching Hospital and to refrain from attacking any other medical facilities.