The shelling of a hospital pediatric ward on Sunday in Sri Lanka gave the world a glimpse of the scorched-earth offensive Sri Lanka’s government has been conducting against the secessionist Tamil Tigers. Unicef and the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed shock that the hospital was shelled, leaving children and their mothers mutilated, dead, and dying.

It does not matter whether the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse or the leadership of the rebel Tamil Tigers is most to blame for the suffering of 250,000 civilians trapped in the war zone. The war has to be stopped. The Obama administration ought to ask for a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire, and the Asian powers providing military assistance to Sri Lanka — China, India and Pakistan — should exert their influence on the government to halt the shooting.

There is a danger that Sri Lanka’s intercommunal conflict could have destabilising repercussions in India. The conflict between Tamils of northeastern Sri Lanka and the Sinhala-dominated government has been going on since 1983. The only true solution must be political: some form of confederal autonomy for the Tamil regions. But the more civilians are killed and maimed, the harder it will be to reach that solution. — International Herald Tribune