Remembering the Navaly church massacre: 26 years on 

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On this day, 26 years ago, the Sri Lankan Air Force dropped 13 bombs on St.Peter’s Church in Navaly near Jaffna. More than 140 Tamil civilians, including 13 children who had taken refuge, were killed.   

The bombing took place on the first day of the Sri Lankan military’s ‘Operation Leap Forward’, a large-scale military offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) north of the Jaffna to retake the Jaffna peninsula.

In the preceding weeks, the Sri Lankan Air Force had dropped leaflets across the region, instructing Tamil civilians to seek shelter at churches and temples as the military offensive began.

The International Red Cross issued a Statement on 11 July 1995 on the Navali massacre: 

” On 9 July the Sri Lankan armed forces launched a large scale military offensive against the positions of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) north of the city of Jaffna. The operation involving intensive artillery shelling and air strikes, immediately forced tens of thousands of civilians to leave the area. Many of the displaced sought shelter in churches and temples, including several hundred people who took refuge in the Church of St.Peter and Paul in Navaly.”

“According to eye witness accounts, this church and several adjacent buildings were hit by further air force strikes at 4.30 p.m. the same day. During the attack 65 people were killed and 150 wounded, including women and children. That evening and into the night Sri Lanka Red Cross staff evacuated most of the wounded by ambulance to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital. Delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) present the next morning at the scene of the attack noted the widespread damage and measured the extent of the tragedy. Many of the bodies had not yet been removed from the rubble.”

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