Feb 02, Colombo: The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in Sri Lanka today appealed to both warring parties to exercise restraint and spare medical facilities as a hospital in Tamil Tiger rebel controlled area came under artillery attack three times killing nine people and injuring 20 others.
ICRC spokesperson Ms. Sarasi Wijeratne said Puthukkudyiruppu Hospital in the Mullaitivu district was directly hit twice in the afternoon and again in the night.
"Nine people were killed and 20 others injured as the kitchen, the church and the children's ward of the hospital were hit by the shelling," Ms. Wijeratne said.
The ICRC which has its staff present at the hospital did not know who fired the shells although the LTTE was quick to blame the Army for the shelling.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the Army was not responsible for the attacks and blamed the rebels for indiscriminately firing artillery barrages in a desperate attempt to halt the military operations.
The Puthukkudyiruppu Hospital currently has over 500 in-patients, some of them still waiting to be transferred to the government-controlled area for more adequate treatment, the ICRC said in a statement yesterday.
The ICRC statement quoting its medical coordinator Ms. Morven Murchison-Lochrie said the staff are under acute stress, surrounded as they are by the sound of the ongoing fighting and the influx of new patients.
"Ambulances are constantly arriving, but people are also being brought in by wagon, pick-up truck, tractor and even motor scooter," she said.
Paul Castella, head of the Colombo delegation of ICRC called on both parties to respect their obligation to spare medical facilities and activities, as required by international humanitarian law in all circumstances.
Expressing shock on the attacks, Castella said "Wounded and sick people, medical personnel and medical facilities are all protected by international humanitarian law. Under no circumstance may they be directly attacked."
ICRC staff is present in the hospital and, together with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, continue to support the Ministry of Health staff caring for the injured and sick there, the statement said.