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The Battle for Jaffna
ri Lanka's military has faced its worst setbacks in the last month since the battle for a separate Tamil homeland began in 1983. Beleagured troops are engaged in heavy, savage fighting with the LTTE about 30 km from Jaffna, which was wrested from rebel control in 1996. For most of the 1980s, the army was confined to Jaffna Fort, so if the town of 50,000 falls, it could be argued this is no more than back to square one. But if the army is driven out and Tiger leader Prabhakaran tries to set up an independent northern province, it would be the first step towards an independent Tamil homeland.
Could this be the decisive conflict?

Jaffna Peninsula: The Battle Ground
Interactive map | Firepower: Lion Vs Tiger

March 8, 2000: Two Israeli-built Dvora-class fast attack craft of the Sri Lankan navy are sunk off Nagarkovil on the Vadamarachhi coast, clearing the way for the LTTE to bring in supplies from the main Tiger base of Mullaitivu. Top

March 27: LTTE offensive begins. Military camps are overrun by human waves of rebel fighters. Before this the Tigers held the entire Vadamaracchi coast from Nagarkovil to       Kattaikadu Top

April 1-7: Using artillery and multi-barrel rocket launchers, LTTE fighters seize several army camps and cut off highway A9, the main supply route to 20,000 troops in the critical        Elephant Pass garrison. Top

April 9-12: Backed by Air Force Kfir aircraft and artillery, troops recapture the main supply route after a fierce 11-hour battle. At least 130 soldiers killed and about 1,000 wounded. Top

April 22: The strategic garrison of Elephant Pass, an isthmus land route and gateway to the northern Jaffna peninsula, falls to the LTTE. Top

April 25-30: Rebels push further north, taking control of Pallai town and other camps, forcing the army deeper into the peninsulaTop

May 2-6: Fighting rages on two fronts: near Kilali, 24 km from Jaffna, and Pallai, both vital defence lines protecting more than 5 lakh civilians, now threatened by long-range artillery battles. Top

May 9: The LTTE stops its advance and offers a ceasefire so that 27,000 beleagured army troops can withdraw. The government says Jaffna will be defended to the last man. Top

May 12-15: Fierce fighting rages around Jaffna. LTTE reaches outskirts but troops aided by air strikes stop further advances. Nearly 1 lakh refugees stream into India.Top

May 17: Fresh LTTE offensive begins after three-day lull. Rebel artillery and mortar force army troops to pull back to prepared positions north east of Jaffna. Government calls for peace. Top

May 18-20: With the army's land supply route cut off, Tigers launch artillery attacks against the only two remaining supply points, Palali air base and Kankesantura naval base.Top

March 22 to 26: Continued shelling of Palali air base and Kankesantura naval base force helicopter drops of supplies to embattled troops. LTTE calls for surrender. Fierce fighting around Chavakachcheri, which both sides claim to be in their control. Fresh fighting near Batticaloa. Top

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