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Page last updated at 21:21 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 22:21 UK

Tamil war zone hospital hit again

Satellite images show clearance of camps for displaced people in Sri Lanka's conflict zone.

More than 50 people have died in Sri Lanka's Tamil war zone when a makeshift hospital was shelled for a second day.

A local doctor told the BBC the main hospital in Mullivaikal was hit - but the army cast doubt on the new attack.

In the US, President Barack Obama urged Sri Lanka to stop "indiscriminate shelling" of civilians and urged Tamil Tiger rebels to lay down their arms.

Satellite images have emerged which appear to show recent heavy shelling in the government-designated "safe zone".

Images released by Human Rights Watch show crater marks and considerable population displacement between 6 and 10 May.

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The organisation says it has also gathered witness testimony contradicting army assertions that they are not using heavy weaponry.

Sri Lanka has accused the Tamil Tiger rebels of being behind recent attacks using heavy weapons.

The UN estimates that about 50,000 civilians are trapped by the conflict, in a three-sq-km strip of land.

'Shelter hit'

A day after Britain and the US called on both the government and the rebels to end hostilities immediately there is no sign of that happening, the BBC's Charles Haviland reports from Colombo.

An ambulance burns outside a makeshift hospital in Mullivaikal, 13 May
An ambulance burned outside the hospital in Mullivaikal on Wednesday

Dr T Varatharajah in Mullivaikal told the BBC more than 50 people had died when two shells hit the zone's main hospital compound.

Sources in the UN said they agreed with that figure and that 100 had been injured.

A Sri Lankan technician working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a 31-year-old father, was killed in shelling along with his mother, the organisation said.

There are accounts of dozens more civilians also being killed.

US President Barack Obama's comments on Sri Lanka's crisis

In Washington, President Obama urged the Sri Lankan government to stop indiscriminate shelling, give UN humanitarian teams access to civilians trapped between the warring sides, and allow the Red Cross and other relief workers to help displaced people.

Mr Obama also called on the Tamil Tigers to lay down their arms.

"Without urgent action this humanitarian crisis could turn into a catastrophe," he said.

Shelling of the same hospital in Mullivaikal on Monday night and Tuesday morning left 49 dead and 86 injured, the doctor told the BBC earlier.

A rebel spokesman said a home for mentally disabled women was also shelled, resulting in the death of 38 people.

He blamed the government side but the Sri Lankan military spokesman, Brig Udaya Nanayakkara, said the rebels were spreading false propaganda.

The army was, he said, using only small arms during its military advance and there was, he added, no facility for handicapped people nearby.

Asked about recent video from Tamil sources, purporting to show the aftermath of hospital bombardments, he said the Tigers were booby-trapping all sorts of facilities and people might be caught in that.

The government says it is in the final stages of wiping out the Tamil Tigers but the rebels have said they will not surrender.

Amnesty International has demanded "immediate and unhindered" access to the war zone for international monitors and humanitarian agencies.

Accusing both sides of putting civilians' lives in danger, it urged the UN Security Council to create a commission to investigate "serious violations by all parties in recent months".

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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
CNN Sri Lanka war in 'final phase' - 1 hr ago
Times ColonistCombat rages in Sri Lanka, more civilians flee - 1 hr ago
Reuters Fighting rages in Sri Lanka, more civilians flee - 1 hr ago
Kuwait Times Troops breach Tiger defenses - 2 hrs ago
United News of India Obama asks S.Lanka to stop "indiscriminate shelling" of civilians - 3 hrs ago
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