New fighting in Sri Lanka's civil war killed 31 Tamil Tiger rebels and two government soldiers, the military said Sunday. In the worst clash Saturday, 18 rebels and a soldier were killed in Mannar district, a military official said on condition of anonymity, citing government rules. Seven rebels and a soldier were killed in Vavuniya while six guerrillas died in Welioya, he said. Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment, and it was not possible to verify the military's claims because reporters are barred from the war zone. Each side often exaggerates the casualties and damage inflicted on its enemy while underreporting its own losses. The government has intensified its campaign against the rebels' de facto state in the north after promising to crush them by the end of this year. However, army commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka recently said it might take another year to significantly weaken the rebels. The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.