An air strike in the town of Mai Tsebri in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray on Monday killed at least 17 people, mostly women, and wounded dozens, two aid workers told Reuters, citing local authorities and eyewitnesses.
The United Nations said it had been unable to confirm the reports or the number of casualties due to a lack of communications in the area. It called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and full humanitarian access.
Last Friday, an air strike killed 56 people and injured 30, including children, in a camp for displaced people in a different location in Tigray.
US President Joe Biden raised concerns with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday about civilian casualties and suffering caused by air strikes.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not respond to a request for comment on the Mai Tsebri strike.
Military spokesperson Colonel Getnet Adane referred Reuters to Legesse.
The government has previously denied targeting civilians in the 14-month conflict, which pits Abiy’s federal forces and their regional allies, backed by Eritrea, against rebellious forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Abiy’s appointment as prime minister in 2018 ended 27 years of TPLF dominance over Ethiopia’s central government. But the party stayed in power in its home region of Tigray, where fighting erupted in November 2020.
Each side blames the other. The TPLF accuses Abiy of centralizing power at the expense of the regions, which he denies, while Abiy accuses the TPLF of seeking to return to power at the national level, which it rejects.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and millions displaced by the conflict. Hundreds of thousands are facing famine-like conditions.
Before the two latest strikes, at least 146 people had been killed and 213 injured in air strikes in Tigray since Oct. 18, according to a document prepared by aid agencies and shared with Reuters last week.
In a separate development, the government last Friday freed some jailed opposition leaders, including several TPLF figures, and said it would begin dialogue with political opponents in order to foster reconciliation.
At a briefing in Washington on Tuesday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric reiterated the Secretary General’s calls for an end to fighting in Tigray and “for all parties to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law.”
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