Tamil Tiger rebels have claimed that eight of their cadres have been killed and four more wounded when Sri Lankan Air Force Kfir fighter jets bombed one of their camps in the restive eastern Batticaloa district during the fourth-day continued air-strike.
"Eight Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam cadres were killed and four wounded when Sri Lanka Air Force bombed LTTE-run Thenaham conference centre in Karadiyanaru, 24 km northwest of Batticaloa between 1130 and 1200 local time on Saturday," the pro-LTTE Tamilnet website reported.
According to the web report, 'Thenaham' had been the LTTE headquarters in Batticaloa district earlier and was later made a guest house and a conference centre by the Tigers.
When contacted Air Force spokesman, Group Captain Ajantha Silva confirmed that the air force had bombed some targets in the LTTE-held areas in the Eastern province, but refused to divulge what they were.
"Yes, we have taken some identified targets in the East on Saturday. The casualty details are not known," the Air Force spokesman said.
Sri Lankan Air Force fighter jets commenced the air-strikes on Wednesday on what the government termed as 'known LTTE targets' in the LTTE-held areas in the northeast after accusing the LTTE cadres of closing the sluice gate of the Mavilaru anicut, depriving water facilities to the adjoining villages.
It was only on Thursday evening that an LTTE camp in Kathiraveli in the rebel-held Vakarai region in the Trincomalee district was bombed by the Israeli-built Kfir jets, killing seven LTTE cadres on the spot and wounding eight more.
The government had on Friday said that 'a well-planned operation by the military authorities' was under way and wowed to continue until the present impasse with the Tamil Tigers over an irrigation sluice gate is resolved.
"Military authorities are implementing planned operation to see an end to the humanitarian water problem," Minister of Policy Planning and the spokesman on defence matters, Keheliya Rambukwella said on Friday, adding that the ongoing aerial strike on the 'identified LTTE targets' was part of the planned operation for water.
Accusing the LTTE of shutting down a sluice gate of the Mavilaru irrigation canal in the eastern Trincomalee district last week, the minister said some 15,000 people in the adjoining villages have been deprived of water for drinking and cultivation purposes.
"It is purely a humanitarian issue as we want to supply the civilians with water," Ambukwella said, adding that the rebels had committed 'a crime against humanity' by shutting down the canal.
However, the LTTE has claimed that a water tank arrangement promised by the government to provide water to areas under the rebel control in the east has not been fulfilled by the government and that as a result the Tamil civilian population had been deprived of water.
Meanwhile, LTTE's political wing head S P Thamilselvan has said in Wanni on Friday that the organisation would be forced to take retaliatory actions if the government continued with the aerial attack, as it was considered an offensive operation on contrary to the existing ceasefire agreement.