Witnesses said Monday that Ethiopian military airstrikes hit the capital of the Tigray region of Ethiopia and killed at least three people. The war was abruptly ended by Mekele, after months of peace.
Two humanitarian workers confirmed the airstrikes days after an offensive launched against Tigray forces, who had been fighting Ethiopian forces for almost a year.
Mekele has not seen fighting since June when Tigray forces overtook large swathes of the region, and Ethiopian troops withdrew. The federal government of Ethiopia has summoned all citizens to defeat the Tigray rebels, who had dominated the government for 27 years until being displaced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad. This began as a political dispute within Africa’s second most populous country. It has since killed thousands.
Questions were not immediately answered by spokespersons for the prime minister and military. A few hours later, the foreign ministry released a statement in which it did not mention the strikes and instead called upon the international community to support Ethiopia’s efforts for peace.
Kindeya Gebrehiwot from Mekele said that a bomb was dropped on a busy day at the market. Kindeya, a spokesperson for the Tigray authorities, stated that many people were injured. A second resident spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation. He said that the first airstrike took place just outside the city, and that three children of the same family were killed. According to the resident, at least seven people were injured in the second strike which also severely damaged a hotel.
The current fighting areas in the nearby Amhara and Afar regions are both under the control of the Tigray region. It is difficult to verify information.
Tigray militias claim they are trying pressure Ethiopia’s government into lifting a deadly blockade that has been imposed on Tigray since June’s dramatic turn in war. Witnesses in Amhara have reported that Tigray fighters are committing door-to-door murders and other atrocities against civilians. This is a echoed of earlier atrocities committed by Ethiopian and allied troops during the war.
Despite pressure from the United Nations and the United States, as well as the European Union, other African countries, for a ceasefire, talks, humanitarian access, and talks, the new offensive continues. A month ago, the U.S. threatened to launch a new round targeted sanctions if it didn’t take immediate steps towards achieving those goals.
The warring parties have not stopped fighting. The Tigray forces released a statement Sunday stating that there is no chance for peaceful dialogue.
According to the foreign ministry, it is “absurd” to expect an unrestricted flow in humanitarian aid to Tigray while (Tigray forces) are actively attacking neighboring areas.
In June, the Ethiopian military conducted an airstrike in the vicinity of Mekele. At least 64 civilians died in the attack on a Togoga market. For hours, soldiers prevented medical teams from reaching victims.