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By CNN News

The Sri Lankan army overran two Tamil Tiger rebel positions in the country’s north on Tuesday, the military reported on its Web site.

Recently captured rebel weapons stacked up in the former Tamil stronghold of Kilinochchi.

The rebels “suffered double blows, losing two heavily fortified defense positions as … troops made predawn incursions at identified terror strong points located south of Valayanmadam today,” the Ministry of Defense said.

(more…)

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By Thomas Fuller, The New York Times

Increasingly impatient with foreign calls for a pause in its war against Tamil rebels, the Sri Lankan government denied entry to the Swedish foreign minister who had planned to take part in a European Union humanitarian mission, Sweden said Tuesday.

Sweden said it would recall its chief diplomat in Sri Lanka.

Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and now the country’s foreign minister, told reporters in Luxembourg that his visa application was turned down by Colombo and accused the Sri Lankan government of “exceedingly strange behavior.”

(more…)

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Situation of children in Gaza remains precarious 100 days after end of conflict

GAZA, 28 April 2009 – More than three months after the cessation of hostilities in Gaza, the Israeli blockade and inter-Palestinian tension are hampering recovery efforts.

“Although the conflict ended 100 days ago, children in Gaza continue to suffer, both physically and psychologically,” said Patricia McPhillips, UNICEF Special Representative to the occupied Palestinian territory. “It is critical that supplies and materials needed for recovery and rehabilitation are allowed in.”

(more…)

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By UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

This report was issued by OCHA Headquarters. It covers the period from 24
to 27 April 2009. The next report will be issued on or around 28 April.
Highlights

There has been an increase of some
40,000 internally displaced persons
(IDPs) over the past few days, bringing
the total to over 150,000 IDPs
in the
IDP camps in Vavuniya, Jaffna, Mannar
and Trincomalee. UN estimates that
50,000 people still trapped in the
conflict zone.
(more…)

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By BBC News
The Sri Lankan army has said there will be no more breaks in fighting against the Tamil Tigers in the north of the country, as it closes in on the rebels.

Spokesman Brig Shavendra Silva said the only way civilians could leave the area was if the army rescued them, as the rebels would not let any more out.
Rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was still in the conflict zone, he added.
The UN has been calling on both sides to pause hostilities so aid can be sent in and people evacuated.
It is sending an aid team to the area, where it says 50,000 are trapped.
The BBC’s Charles Haviland, who travelled through areas close to the frontline and saw refugees who had recently fled from the fighting, says many looked seriously ill and most very weak.
The government says 100,000 people have fled since Monday’s military push. An estimated 60,000 people had already fled in recent months.
A UN document being circulated around diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka estimates that nearly 6,500 civilians have died and 14,000 have been injured.
(The BBC’s Charles Haviland, in Puthukkudiyiruppu near the front line).
A jolting ride in armoured vehicles took us across the swathe of north-east Sri Lanka which until a couple of months ago was held by the rebels. Buildings are badly damaged and the land is devoid of people. They’ve all been taken to areas the government calls welfare villages. Then suddenly, in coconut groves, we saw a long line of people who’ve freshly fled from the conflict zone. Many looked seriously ill, and most very weak. Surrounded by soldiers, people told us briefly that they’d been hungry or thirsty, or were happy to be out, or that the Tamil Tigers had prevented them from leaving. We and they were then moved on.
Meanwhile senior Indian officials have met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo, following Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s call to end the killing of civilians.
No details of the meeting have been released, but Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan were expected to stress the severity of the humanitarian crisis.
Brig Silva said intelligence reports indicated that Velupillai Prabhakaran and other rebel leaders were still in the conflict zone and appeared to be preparing to make a last stand.

He has not been seen for 18 months, and there was speculation that he was killed or fled the island.

The army spokesman added that the Tamil Tigers were dressing in civilian clothing to blend in, and firing into the zone using heavy weaponry so people would think the army was firing at them.
But our correspondent says there is no way of verifying these reports.
On Thursday, the representative of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Colombo, Amin Awad, called on the Sri Lankan government to allow pauses in the fighting so the necessary work could be completed.
“We are calling on the government to restrain itself and have the moral upper ground by allowing the humanitarian aid in, and we’re asking the LTTE [Tamil Tigers] to open the gates of hell and allow these people out into safety,” he said.
Hours earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the immediate despatch of the humanitarian team.
Thousands of people are caught with the Tamil Tigers in a 12 sq km (5 sq m) area in the north of the country as the military closes in.
The UN’s humanitarian coordinator, Neil Buhne, said tens of thousands of people were living in camps in the northern town of Vavuniya.
“I saw infants with dysentery, malnourished children and women, untended wounds, and people dressed in the ragged clothing they’ve been wearing for months,” the Associated Press quoted him as saying.
Paul McMaster, a British surgeon with Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), told the BBC a “continuous stream” of patients had been arriving at the hospital in Vavuniya since the weekend.
He said the hospital was equipped with 400 beds but was treating nearly 2,000 patients, many of them with gunshot wounds and blast injuries.
“We are doing emergency surgery, but the hospital is completely overwhelmed,” he said, with patients lying on the floor, in corridors and outside under trees and temporary shelters.
‘Rescue operation’
On Thursday, Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa rejected a UN appeal to allow aid agencies in.

While the government has allowed aid agencies to help those fleeing the conflict, Sri Lanka’s UN ambassador says only the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Catholic charity, Caritas, have been let into the war zone itself.
On Wednesday the UN Security Council, which had been accused of inaction, called on the Tamil Tigers to lay down their arms and urged the Sri Lankan government to allow international aid agencies into areas of need.

The UN and Western nations – including the US and the UK – have been pressing for an immediate halt to the fighting to allow time for civilians to leave the war zone safely.

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By United Nations Country Team in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO: The UN today issued an urgent appeal for funds to meet the critical needs of an exodus of thousands of people who are fleeing fighting.

Speaking from Colombo after returning from camps in the town of Vavuniya where around 80,000 exhausted civilians who escaped the combat zone are being held, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka said that teams are scrambling to feed, clothe, shelter, and provide water to “crowds of weary and hungry people.” (more…)

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By Emma Batha, AlertNet

Hundreds of people fleeing Sri Lanka’s war zone are arriving at hospitals with horrific injuries and severe trauma, doctors say.

Aid workers are also warning there could be a “bloodbath” as the war between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels enters what appears to be the final days.

The military says at least 100,000 civilians have poured out of the battle zone since Monday when troops blasted through a massive earthen wall built by the Tigers. But the United Nations says tens of thousands more could still be trapped there.

(more…)

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