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Sri Lanka: UN convoy to evacuate wounded civilians from war-torn north

Sri Lanka: UN convoy to evacuate wounded civilians from war-torn north

Internally displaced people wait for aid at a distribution point in eastern Sri Lanka
The United Nations said today it will attempt for the second time in three days to help evacuate by convoy hundreds of critically wounded civilians, including at least 50 children, from war-torn northern Sri Lanka.

The convoy has been trapped for days in the town of Puthukkudiyiruppu, which lies just across the lines of confrontation in territory controlled by the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The UN says that if permission is granted by the LTTE, and if a lull in fighting permits, the convoy will cross the frontline at midday Thursday. The injured will then be transported to Ministry of Health hospitals in the town of Vavuniya that can cope with their wounds.

An estimated 250,000 civilians are trapped in areas of northern Sri Lanka where fighting continues between Government forces and the LTTE.

Nearly 5,000 people have managed to cross the zones held by the group to Government-controlled areas since late November, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for all parties to allow and facilitate the movement of the 250,000 civilians currently caught up in fighting to safe areas.

“He calls on the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka to accord immediate and absolute priority to ensuring the protection and well-being of civilians, including humanitarian aid workers,” his spokesperson said in a statement issued on Monday.

Mr. Ban also called on both parties to respect “no fire zones,” “safe areas,” and civilian infrastructure including schools, medical facilities and humanitarian facilities and assets.