Thursday, May 13, 2010


Current Events: World

Sri Lanka: LTTE on its last legs as Army closes in

Fall of the Elephant Pass, Kilinochchi and now Mullaitivu has broken the rebels' back

The fall of Mullaitivu follows the recent captures by government forces of Kilinochchi and

the Jaffna peninsula. Concern is mounting about the human cost of the government's

military offensive against Tamil Tiger strongholds. With the capture of Mullaitivu, the last of the

Tamil Tigers' north-eastern strongholds, the Sri Lankan army says that it is very close

to defeating the rebels after years of war. Another rebel stronghold to fall was the Elephant Pass–the strategic causeway linking theJaffna peninsula with the mainland.

Tens of thousands of people have been made homeless in recent months, mainly in the north

where the military has made inroads into areas under Tamil Tiger control after seizing control

of many eastern areas last year.

The violence increased after President Mahinda Rajapaksa's hard-line election campaign in

November 2005, when he ruled out autonomy for Tamils in the north and east and promised

to review the peace process.

In between then and now the military offensive against the rebels has been ratcheted up, with

the government formally abandoning a six-year-old Norwegian brokered ceasefire at the

beginning of 2008.

Some analysts argued that the rebels provoked the government into retaliation and war by

staging attacks despite the truce, but others said they wanted to negotiate from a position of


The Tigers started fighting in the 1970s for a separate state for Tamils in Sri Lanka's north

and east. They argued that the Tamils had been discriminated against by successive majority

Sinhalese governments. They are a proscribed as a terrorist group in many countries.

With its advances in the east in 2007 and progress in the north in 2008, most of Sri Lanka is

now under government control.

But even though the army is now in a commanding position after taking Mullativu,

Kilinochchi and Jaffna, the rebels have shown on innumerable occasions their capacity to

fight a guerrilla war through the use of suicide bombings, assassinations and even aerial

attacks carried out by planes operating from secret jungle bases.

Analysts say the recent success of the government can be explained by a number of factors


Increased government spending on the latest military assault

Crackdowns across Europe, Canada and the US on overseas fund-raising for the Tigers

Much reduced arms supplies for the Tigers because of stringent joint patrols by the Sri

Lankan and Indian navies searching for vessels smuggling arms from south-east Asia

The government's military victory against the Tamil Tigers has raised questions and unease

among members of the Tamil minority about how the government will now deal with their

long-standing grievances.

Gaza: Israel announces ceasefire

Civilian casualties ran into hundreds

Three weeks after it began its offensive in the Gaza Strip, Israel announced a unilateral

ceasefire, followed hours later by Hamas announcing a one-week ceasefire.

The ceasefire was unilaterally declared by Israel, 22 days after its offensive began. Israeli

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the nation Hamas had been "badly beaten" and that Israel's

goals "have been more than fully achieved". The goals had been to stop rocket fire into

southern Israel and, in the words of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, "to change realities on the


Israel has been under intense diplomatic pressure to end its action and a day before the

ceasefire received assurances from the United States that it would take concrete steps to halt

the flow of arms and explosives into the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has demanded that Israel withdraw its troops and end its 19-month blockade of the

strip. Hamas is an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement. It regards the whole of

historic Palestine as Islamic land and therefore views the state of Israel as an occupier.

Hamas' rival Fatah is the other faction of Palestinians that controls the West Bank.

So why did the Israelis launch their 27 December offensive? The Israelis say they attacked in order

to stop the firing of rockets into Israel. Israel wants all firing to stop and measures to be taken to

prevent Hamas from re-arming. It is trying to destroy or reduce Hamas as a fighting force and to

capture its stocks of weapons to help achieve this. The Israeli attack began on 27 December 2008, not

long after Hamas had announced that it would not renew a ceasefire that had started in June 2008.

The hostilities between the two sides broke out when the Israelis carried out their first incursion

into southern Gaza during the truce, killing six militants, on 4 November 2008. Israel said its

troops entered to destroy a tunnel which could be used to abduct its soldiers.

This led to the further firing of Hamas missiles into Israel and in turn to a much tighter Israel

blockade. The blockade left the already fragile economy of Gaza devastated. Goods ranging

from food to missiles have, however, been brought in through smuggling tunnels from Egypt.

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