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Sri Lankan hospital attacked -

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Sri Lankan hospital attacked

The World Today - Tuesday, 3 February , 2009 12:50:00

Reporter: Sally Sara

BRENDAN TREMBATH: At least nine people have been killed during the shelling of a crowded hospital
in northern Sri Lanka.

The International Red Cross has condemned the attack and says it is shocked by the loss of life.

The hospital in the Vanni district was full of casualties from intense fighting between Sri Lankan
forces and Tamil Tiger rebels.

South Asia correspondent Sally Sara reports.

SALLY SARA: The staff and patients of the hospital found themselves in the crosshairs of the
conflict.

The hospital in the north east of the country was shelled three times on Sunday afternoon and
evening and was hit again last night local time.

It's unclear whether the Tamil Tigers or government troops were responsible for the attack.

UN spokesman Gordon Weiss says the effects of the shelling was devastating.

GORDON WEISS: The last one struck a women's and children's ward and that was a ward that was a
30-bed ward, filled to overflowing, so there were people lying in the corridors as well and in the
spaces between the beds. So it did considerable damage when it hit.

SALLY SARA: Local health workers say several people lost their arms and legs in the shelling. Many
were already injured when they arrived at the hospital, and were then hit again when the shells
struck.

Sophie Romanens, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sri Lanka, says
the attacks are a shocking breach of international law.

SOPHIE ROMANENS: We are indeed, we are very shocked about the fact that medical structures are hit
by shelling. This is unacceptable. You know, there are patients there to get medical treatment and
it is very important these facilities are respected.

SALLY SARA: The Sri Lankan Government is ordering civilians to leave the area and go to designated
safe zones. But aid groups say the safe zones have also been shelled.

Asia Pacific director for Amnesty International Sam Zarifi says 250,000 civilians remain at risk.

SAM ZARIFI: The Government just frankly doesn't have the sufficient ability to take care of a
quarter of a million people. So the Government is realy gambling with the lives of these people
assuming that it can finish the military phase of thing conflict without letting more and more of
these people die.

SALLY SARA: The Sri Lankan military says it will keep going until it eliminates the Tamil Tigers.

But Christian Le Miere, analyst with Jane's Defence Weekly says that could take years and even then
the Tamil Tigers could reform as they have in the past.

CHRISTIAN LE MIERE: Given the difficult fighting conditions in the jungles in northern Sri Lanka,
it will be years before any military campaign significantly. So I think given the number of people
still under arms and we keep finding them in fresh terrains it maybe impossible to (inaudible)
altogether and some kind of peace agreement may be necessary.

SALLY SARA: Until then, the fighting is set to continue and a quarter of a million civilians remain
stranded on the battlefield in northern Sri Lanka.

This is Sally Sara for The World Today.