Ten dead as airstrikes hit Tigray region’s capital

A tank damaged during the fighting between Ethiopia’s National Defense Force (ENDF) and Tigray Special Forces stands on the outskirts of Humera town in Ethiopia.

A second day of air strikes against the capital of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region killed 10 people on Wednesday, hospital officials said, while local forces accused troops from neighbouring Eritrea of again joining the war against them.

Ethiopia’s government, which has been fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) since late 2020, is yet to comment on the airstrikes, fighting, or presence of Eritrean troops.

Wednesday’s reported drone strikes in Mekelle followed a TPLF ceasefire offer at the weekend.

Among the casualties in Mekelle were a father killed in the second strike and his son, a doctor, wounded when tending victims, said Fasika Amdeslasie, a surgeon at Mekelle’s Ayder Referral Hospital.

Some 13 people were wounded.

Five of the victims died en route to the hospital, said Ayder’s CEO Kibrom Gebreselassie. Another five died at the scene in an area called Dagim Amsal, he said, citing Mekelle’s emergency coordinator.

Kibrom said the hospital was struggling to save the wounded because of supply shortages in a region largely cut off from aid. “I don’t know what to do. Am I to lose every salvageable victim because there is no oxygen or medicine?” he said.

The conflict has killed thousands of civilians, uprooted millions, destroyed hundreds of schools and clinics, and caused starvation in the already impoverished region of Tigray.

With fighting flaring in several parts of Tigray and neighbouring Amhara region, TPLF commander-in-chief Tadesse Werede said in an interview broadcast on Tigrayan television on Tuesday that Eritrea’s military had taken the town of Shiraro near the border.

Yemane Gebremeskel, Eritrea’s minister of information, is yet to comment on the accusation.

Ethiopia’s military spokesperson Col. Getnet Adane and government spokesperson Legesse Tulu are yet to comment on latest events in Tigray.

Eritrean troops previously entered the war days after it erupted, although both governments denied their presence for around five months. Residents and rights groups accused the Eritrean troops of abuses including gang rape and sexual enslavement of civilians, mass civilian killings and torture.

Eritrea denied those accusations.

Verifying claims is difficult as reporters are not allowed into the region and it has had no phone connections since federal troops pulled out more than a year ago.

William Davison, senior analyst for Ethiopia at the International Crisis Group think-tank, said recent diplomatic activity by the African Union, United States and others was encouraging, but events on the ground were undermining them.

“If we don’t see progress on key points of contention soon, then we could see these diplomatic efforts lose momentum,” he said.

Wednesday’s reported strikes came after two people were wounded on Tuesday in hits on Mekelle University and a local TV station, a hospital official said.

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