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The Ethiopian army carried out airstrikes on Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region on Friday, four days after the start of the government offensive against rebel targets.
The Ethiopian army carried out new strikes on the capital of the warring region of Tigray on Friday (October 22nd) during a fourth day of air operations this week, the government said.
Friday’s strikes targeted a training center used by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group, spokeswoman Billene Seyoum said, saying the site “was also serving as a hub in the fighting. “led by the” terrorist organization “of the TPLF.
The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been facing a devastating conflict in the northern region of Tigray for eleven months.
Almost a year of conflict
Abiy Ahmed sent the army there on November 4, 2020 to drive out the dissident regional authorities from the TPLF, which he accuses of orchestrating attacks on military bases.
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner declared victory at the end of November, but in June the TPLF managed to take back most of the region, including Mekele. The Ethiopian army had then largely withdrawn.
On Monday, the Ethiopian Air Force carried out two strikes on Mekele which the UN said killed three children and injured several others.
On Wednesday, it bombed TPLF arms caches in Mekele and the town of Agbe, about 80 kilometers to the west. An official from the city hospital told AFP that the strike left at least eight people injured, including a pregnant woman.
A fourth strike targeted the regional capital on Thursday, without causing any casualties, according to doctors and the TPLF.
No information was immediately available on the casualties in Friday’s operation.
The international community is concerned about these recent strikes.
A spokesperson for the US State Department said Wednesday that Washington “condemns the continued escalation of violence, which puts civilians at risk.”
The airstrikes come amid reports of intense fighting in the Amhara region, south of Tigray, where TPLF rebels launched an offensive in July.
TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda on Wednesday claimed on Twitter that rebel fighters had taken control of at least two new towns in the region, placing the towns of Kombolcha and Dessie – where tens of thousands of people sought refuge in the face of the advancing TPLF – “within artillery range”.
Much of northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and journalists’ access is restricted, making it difficult to independently verify positions on the ground.
Residents of Dessie reported a heavy military presence in the area on Thursday, as civilians from towns further north continued to arrive.
The UN continues to alert on the disastrous humanitarian situation in Tigray.
The UN Humanitarian Coordination Office (Ocha) stressed in its weekly report on the conflict in Tigray, published Thursday evening, that several humanitarian organizations were forced to suspend their food distribution for lack of fuel.
Some 14 gasoline tankers are stranded in the Afar region, where the only passable land road to Tigray is located, although they have obtained permission to travel, notably underlines the UN agency.
AFP was able to confirm deaths caused by hunger in several parts of the region, based on internal documents and a humanitarian organization there.
The UN said last week that the number of severely malnourished children admitted to hospital between February and August was double that of the same time last year.
Some 2.5% of children examined were diagnosed with severe malnutrition in the past week, the UN said on Thursday, up from 2.3% the week before.
The report also highlights that between October 6 and 13, only 52,000 people received food aid, or 1% of the 5.2 million people targeted by humanitarian organizations.
“To reach 5.2 million people in a six-week cycle, partners should be able to reach an average of at least 870,000 people per week,” the report said.