Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been urged by a grouping of the Tamil diaspora to halt military operations for a while to help civilians trapped in the Tamil Tiger zone to escape.
The Tamil Forum for Peace has asked Rajapaksa to "unilaterally declare an immediate cessation of hostilities for a specified period to enable safe passage to the innocents trapped in the small area under (the) control" of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
"We also call upon the international community to exert pressure on LTTE to release the civilians it is forcibly holding as hostages," it added.
The appeal follows reports of heavy casualties the Tamil civilian population has suffered in a small area of Sri Lanka's Mullaitivu district still held by the LTTE.
"The LTTE may be holding them for their own safety and may be ready to sacrifice them for propaganda purposes to turn international opinion against your government," the statement said.
But it added that "the safety of all civilians trapped in the fighting zone is paramount and necessary and saving their lives is the only morally right thing to do at this juncture".
The statement added: "Such a move on your part will certainly help to create the belief that even as you are fighting the Tigers, (the war) is not directed at the Tamil community and (you have) the humanitarian concerns and sufferings of the Tamil civilians uppermost in your mind."