COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross is calling on the Sri Lankan government and rebel leaders to adhere to international laws on protecting civilians.
The Sri Lankan army has increased its campaign against the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The escalation in attacks resulted in the shelling Monday of the Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital and the death of an estimated 16 patients.
Fearing a higher death toll, ICRC officials operating in the northern Vanni region were assured safe passage Tuesday for an evacuation of 240 patients. Another 160 patients are expected to be evacuated on Wednesday, the ICRC reported.
ICRC officials are demanding that leaders from both the Sri Lankan government and LTTE respect international laws and ensure the safety of local civilians.
"We are shocked that patients are not afforded the protection they are entitled to," Paul Castella, head of the ICRC delegation in Colombo, said in a statement.
"Once more, we call on both parties to meet their obligation under international humanitarian law to spare wounded and sick people, medical personnel and medical facilities at all times."