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
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.