Ethiopian warplanes bombed Mekele, the capital of the rebel Tigray region, on Friday. The attack marks a sharp escalation in fighting that resumed on Wednesday in the north of the country after a five-month ceasefire.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s federal government did not immediately confirm the strike, but issued a statement announcing its intention to take “action” in Tigray and urging the population to stay away from military targets.
He categorically rejected the rebels’ accusations that the Bundeswehr had killed civilians.
Early in the afternoon, a spokesman for the rebel authorities, Kindeya Gebrehiwot, announced that the Ethiopian Air Force had “bombed a residential area and a kindergarten in Mekele,” killing and injuring civilians.
An official at Ayder Hospital, the city’s governor, said in a message to AFP that his facility had killed four, including two children, and injured nine.
“Ethiopian military aviation is clearly responding to the attack on Ethiopia by only attacking military sites,” the government communications service replied in a message to AFP.
He accused the Tigrayan rebels of “laying fake body bags in civilian areas to claim that the Air Force attacked civilians”.
Government and rebels from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) blame each other for renewed fighting on the region’s southeastern border that ended a five-month truce on Wednesday.
Since it broke out in November 2020, the war in northern Ethiopia has claimed several thousand lives, displaced more than two million people and plunged hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians into starvation, according to the United Nations.
This escalation appears to confirm concerns from the international community, which fears a large-scale resurgence in the conflict and fears that hopes for peace talks, which have been stoked since June but never materialized, will be dashed.
On Wednesday, many countries and international organizations, led by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, called for a cessation of hostilities and a peaceful solution to the 21-month conflict.
“While the international community is calling on the two warring factions to de-escalate, Abiy Ahmed has decided to send his air force to attack civilians in Mekele,” rebel spokesman Getachew Reda protested on Twitter.
He called on the international community to “stop spoiling Abiy” and “put pressure on the regime to negotiate in good faith.”
On Friday, Ethiopian authorities also appealed to the international community, urging them to “condemn” the “permanent provocations” by the Tigrayan rebels and urge them “toward the government’s proposed peace option.”
Before the bombing of Mekele, fighting was localized to two areas of the Amhara and Afar regions around the south-eastern tip of Tigray and did not appear to have spread. Fighting continued on Friday for the third day in a row, local residents said.
Journalists have no access to northern Ethiopia, making independent verification impossible. The cellular network in these areas is also hit or miss.
“I hear the sound of heavy weapons but no shots,” an official from the Amhara town of Kobo, about 500 kilometers north of Israel, said on Friday noon on condition of anonymity in Addis Ababa and about 10 kilometers south of the Tigra border.
There is “little clear information” circulating, which is creating “confusion, fear and insecurity” among the population, he added, specifying that “women and children are trying to leave the city” where some public services and businesses have their have ceased activity.
Also in the Amhara region, a resident of Mehago, a Tigray border area about thirty kilometers northwest of Kobo, said Friday he had heard “explosions and gunfire” since the previous day.
“Large groups of residents are fleeing the surrounding communities,” he told AFP.
In the Afar region, fighting “continues” on Friday between the towns of Yalo and Gulina, located about fifteen and twenty kilometers respectively from the border with Tigray, a humanitarian source told AFP.
This article was published automatically. Sources: ats/afp
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