The U.N. has consistently warned against the bloodbath scenario as we’ve watched the steady increase in civilian deaths over the last few months
Gordon Weiss, the U.N. spokesman in Sri Lanka is quoted in the New York Times on Monday. Weiss adds,
The large-scale killing of civilians over the weekend, including the deaths of more than 100 children, shows that that bloodbath has become a reality.
The AP story continues,
A government doctor said at least 378 civilians — and perhaps as many as 1,000 — had been killed and more than 1,100 wounded on Saturday and Sunday during intensive shelling of the combat zone on Sri Lanka’s northeastern coast, a boggy sliver of beachfront where Sri Lankan troops have surrounded Tamil separatist fighters.
“There were many who died without medical attention,” the doctor, V. Shanmugarajah , told The Associated Press. “Seeing the number of wounded and from what the people tell me, I estimate the death toll to be around 1,000.”
Concern for civilians trapped in the zone has grown in recent weeks. The area of fighting, which at one time had been set aside by the government as a “no-fire zone,” has shrunk to about 7 square kilometers, or about 2.5 square miles. An estimated 50,000 civilians, mostly Tamils, are thought to be caught there, along with a holdout force of between 200 and 500 fighters.
Some relief groups and the government have assailed the rebels for holding the civilians as human shields. Many of the same agencies and some foreign governments have accused the government of shelling the area — along with the civilians inside — despite pledges to no longer use heavy weapons, artillery or air strikes.