Government bombing attacks killed about 100 Tamil rebels Tuesday in a military effort to rescue 400 soldiers and police trapped in a military camp in the north of the country, military officials said.
The attacks came a day after air force helicopters dropped thousands of leaflets asking civilians to evacuate the area and warning them of the dangers of remaining.
Military officials said the bombings took place on the Jaffna Peninsula, 190 miles north of Colombo, where about 400 soldiers and police officers are surrounded in an army camp inside a 200-year-old Dutch fort.
The officials said that the air force used fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to drop bombs and launch rockets on Tiger positions surrounding the fort, which has been under attack for about two weeks.
At least 100 rebels were killed and 10 bunkers destroyed in the attacks, the officials said. There was no report of civilian casualties or government losses, and additional details were not immediately available.
The rebels charged Tuesday that the air force planes bombed and strafed residential areas and killed an unknown number of civilians in the battle for the strategic Jaffna fort.
At one point, bombers and helicopters attacked the area continuously for three hours, and hundreds of buildings near the Jaffna fort were set on fire, the rebels said.
Fighting between government forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam guerrillas erupted June 12 when rebels staged simultaneous attacks on four military camps in eastern Sri Lanka, killing at least 66 soldiers.
Since then, more than 600 soldiers, police officers, rebels and civilians have been reported killed, and more than 183,000 people have been left homeless.
The Tigers are demanding an independent Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces because they believe the country’s mostly Hindu Tamil minority has been discriminated against by the Sinhalese majority, which is predominantly Buddhist and controls the Colombo government.