Earlier this year, the army launched a crackdown on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) to oust them from their territory in the northeastern part of Sri Lanka, which the rebels have occupied for several years. The rebels have now been forced back to a small coastal strip, where about fifty thousand people have been trapped after the area was evacuated of 100,000 people.
Thangamuttu Sathyamurthi, a government health official in the war zone, reported that people were dying of starvation, and that there was a large deficit of medicine and food.
According to the medical relief group Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), many of the people who had fled the conflict zone had gunshot and blast wounds.
The government has accused the Tamil Tiger rebels of using civilians as human shields, a claim that the rebels deny. The rebels have accused the Sri Lankan army of randomly shelling civilian areas.
The U.N. says that the rate of civilian deaths in the country has risen sharply. On average, 33 civilians were killed per day at the end of January. The number has now increased to an average 116 per day.