Thousands of civilians took shelter in schools and Buddhist temples after wayward artillery fire wounded dozens and killed and wounded many soldiers, rebels, and civilians and the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) and rebels trading charges on who was responsible. As is the pattern in Sri Lanka, it is impossible to verify or obtain independent account on who was responsible or even a clear sequence of events leading to the incident.
The incident surfaced after several hundred civilians showed up at government-held town of Kantale south west of the strategic port town Trincomalee soon followed by several thousand more. Senior most Government agent of Kantale says that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) "attacked civilian villages" and that the refugees are being housed in "Buddhist temples and schools" and the Government is "feeding" the "2,800 people." The Army hospital at Kantale reported has admitted 41 people, most of them soldiers injured by artillery and mortar shrapnel, but those injured also includes children. These displaced villagers are from villages where the Sri Lankan Government (SLG) had settled Sinhalese civilians in the East. An SLA press statement said that "The distance to the villages shelled from the military bases clearly indicates that the Tigers had intentionally resorted to this brutal act of killing and injuring the civilians by the heavy shelling at random."
Meanwhile, pitched battles were being fought by the Sri Lankan Army with the LTTE in Batticaloa and Trincomalee trapping at least 50,000 people in the fighting. United Nations agencies say that over 38,000 people are displaced and trapped in the Vaharai region. All these areas are under LTTE control and have seen a lot of Tamil civilian death from crossfire. The SLA says that the LTTE is entrapping the civilians, preventing their migration and using them as human shields.
Obviously, the LTTE denies this claim and instead blaming the Sri Lankan Navy for bombarding refugee camps forcing over 7000 civilians to take refuge in hospitals in the Varahi area. The SLA claims that "Retaliation is the only option" and says that its "state-of-the-art mortar locating radars" identifying Tiger gun or mortar positions" have caused death of large number of LTTE cadres which the Tigers say were civilians. The SLA routinely blames the Tigers for civilian death while the LTTE has a history of using civilians as human shields.
A Norwegian peace envoy unsuccessfully beseeched LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabakaran and bring truce. Prabakaran had said in his "Heroes' Day" speech that the Tamils do not have the option of peace and have to fight for independence because of "Sinhala duplicity" of negotiating while waging war on the Tamils.
The international community and non-government organizations are very worried about a humanitarian crisis especially of those in areas bordering the demarcated areas under the control of the LTTE and the SLG. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are starving in the Jaffna Peninsula where the SLG has shut off the only lifeline to the area. Aid vehicles have been refused entry on the premise that they can be targeted by Tiger guns. SLA officials claim that the Tamil civilians can cross over the heavily guarded demarcated line and claim rations from Army welfare shops.