It said the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers, suffered "considerable damages" in the fighting on Thursday, though the ministry did not provide casualty figures.

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"Troops also received minor damages from exploding anti-personnel mines," it said.

The Sri Lankan government has rejected a call for a truce from the LTTE, demanding the rebels surrender or face defeat.

The ongoing fighting between the military and the LTTE has sparked international concern over the plight of civilians trapped in the strip of land controlled by the LTTE.

Thousands of people have fled the area but the UN has said that up to 50,000 civilians could still be trapped.

Red Cross evacuation

On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it evacuated 495 sick and injured Sri Lankans and their accompanying caregivers from the war zone.

But it said there is still more to be done.

"Not all the wounded could be evacuated today, and it is of the utmost importance that more evacuations take place over the coming days," Jacques de Maio, the ICRC head of operations for South Asia, said.

"The food and medical supplies that have been delivered remain insufficient to cover the basic needs of the people there."

He warned that the heavy fighting puts the lives of patients, medical workers and ICRC staff at risk and hampers medical evacuations of wounded civilians and their families.

The ICRC says it has evacuated more than 13,000 people from the conflict area by boat to Trincomalee and Pulmoddai, which are in government-controlled areas, since mid-February.