Government troops and the rebels also fought in northeastern Welioya village on Tuesday, leaving nine rebels killed, he said, without elaborating.

Red Cross

The fighting comes as the International Committee of the Red Cross said it would return to two checkpoints between government and rebel-held territories in the north after it received security assurances for its staff.

The crossings at Omanthai and Uyilankulam lines had been closed for more than a week after the ICRC withdrew its staff due to security concerns amid a deepening conflict between the Tigers and government forces.

Davide Vignati, the ICRC spokesman, said that the ICRC staff will return to the crossings three days a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday - after the rebels and the government guaranteed their safety.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for over two decades for an independent state for the country's 3.1 million Tamil minority, citing decades of discrimination by the Sinhalese-majority state.

Violence has escalated over the past 18 months, killing an estimated 5,000 people and shattering a Norway-brokered ceasefire signed in 2002 that was once seen as the best chance at peace for the tiny Indian Ocean island.

On Tuesday, the military said air force planes bombed a rebel base in northern Mullaithivu district but the rebels said the bombs fell in civilian settlements, killing a woman and wounding two more civilians.