Sri Lankan military on Thursday declared a new "Civilian Safety Zone" (CSZ), saying it was in response "to the worsening plight of thousands of civilians held hostage" by the Tamil Tigers in the north-eastern Mullaitivu district.
It comes into immediate effect from Thursday.
"The new 12 km long safe region demarcated along the Mullaitivu western coast is expected to facilitate flow of humanitarian aid and medical supplies for the people stranded with LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has duly been informed of the new safe zone," the defence ministry said Thursday.
On Jan 21, the Sri Lankan government declared a CSZ and urged the people to move into it to ensure their safety and security.
But the government charged that the LTTE has "discarded it (CSZ) with contempt" by moving its heavy artillery batteries and mortar guns inside the safety zone "using civilians to shield against military retaliation".
Amid heavy clashes in Mullaitivu district, the ICRC Tuesday evacuated 240 sick and wounded Tamil civilians from the LTTE-held area using a ferry.
An ICRC-chartered ferry loaded 240 of the 400 sick and wounded people needing urgent medical attendance, off Puthumathalan, a narrow coastal strip still under the control of the rebels in the Mullaitivu district. They were ferried them to the eastern port city of Trincomalee.
Claiming that at least 16 patients were killed at Puthumathalan Monday due to shelling, the ICRC in a statement once again urged both parties "to meet their obligation under international humanitarian law to spare at all times the wounded and sick people, medical personnel and medical facilities".
The military sources said over 32,000 civilians were trapped in the LTTE-held areas have entered the government-held areas of Mullaitivu since January.