New Strikes in Tigray Capital as TPLF Says It’s Killed ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Ethiopians, Eritreans
23:40 GMT 14.09.2022 (Updated: 23:41 GMT 14.09.2022)
Health officials in Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray state, have reported 10 deaths following a pair of airstrikes by Ethiopian forces on Wednesday. It was the second strike in as many days, and comes as the governing Tigray People’s Liberation Army (TPLF) claimed to be slaughtering Eritrean and Ethiopian forces in the northern state.
Kibrom Gebreselassie, the CEO of Ayder Referral Hospital, Mekelle’s main hospital, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that two airstrikes had hit a Mekelle neighborhood, killing 10 people and injuring at least 14 others. The agency noted it could not independently confirm the claims of the strike or of the death toll.
The reported strikes come a day after another strike, also allegedly carried out by a drone, hit Mekelle University. No one was killed in the attack, but at least one person was injured. Photos posted on social media by Tigrayan officials showed damaged trucks and a person with a small cut on their knee.
TPLF Claims Eritrean Advances
The strikes come as fighting reportedly continues in western Tigray, where the TPLF has engaged Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) troops and, reportedly, Eritrean forces.
Tadesse Worede, commander of the TPLF’s armed forces, said on Tuesday that "Eritrean forces are in Sheraro,” a town about 8 miles from the Eritrean border in northwestern Tigray. The TPLF claimed Eritrea launched an offensive
in the area in conjunction with ENDF forces last week, but there has been no confirmation of that by Asmara or non-TPLF sources.
Addis Ababa has claimed that it was the TPLF who initiated the fighting in western Tigray, launching an offensive to reclaim the four westernmost woredas and open a land bridge to Sudan, where the group has reportedly been recruiting
irregular forces from refugee camps. A day after the fighting resumed, on August 25, the ENDF said it had shot down a transport plane
flying from Sudan to Tigray carrying arms. It gave no details about the type or size of the aircraft.
New Ceasefire Offer, New Demands
Prior to the new fighting last month, which both sides have accused each other of initiating, months of preparations had seemingly finally set the stage for peace talks to begin between the TPLF and the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. On Friday, the TPLF offered a truce via a letter
to the United Nations, and on Monday offered to accept
the proposed mediation of peace talks by the African Union, something it had previously rejected
The ceasefire offer, however, was followed by gloating by TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda, who claimed the Ethiopian-Eritrean offensive had “hit a brick wall” and that “tens of thousands of Eritreans & Ethiopians along with numerous commanders have been killed in engagements the last few days in the south and western fronts.”
The group has also renewed other demands previously part of the peace talks, including for the restoration of electricity, internet and banking services, and for food aid convoys to return - the lattermost of which were canceled
by the UN World Food Program (WFP), not Abiy’s government.
However, the TPLF has also added new demands, such as that the ENDF totally withdraw from Tigray, including the four westernmost woredas that it has occupied since the conflict began in November 2020. The districts were once part of Amhara state, but added to Tigray when the TPLF seized power from the Derg military regime in 1991.
Revolt Against Abiy
That insurrection began after two years of waning influence over Ethiopian politics, following Abiy’s appointment as prime minister. Ethnic parties allied to the TPLF rejected its dominating position and nominated Abiy, the first Oromo to ever hold the office, and he immediately set about reducing the TPLF’s influence and reversing many of its policies. Later that year, he received a Nobel Peace Prize
for ending the 20-year-long war with Eritrea that had killed 120,000 people.
Foreign governments and international organizations have urged both sides to end the fighting, with the European Union on Wednesday throwing its weight
behind the AU-led peace process.
"The Ethiopian government is committed to the AU-led peace process and expressed hope that the EU would support efforts to end the conflict peacefully," Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen told Rita Laranjinha
, Director for Africa at the European External Action Service, on Wednesday.
The war has worsened an already-dire situation as a drought plagues the region. Across Ethiopia, more than 20 million people are in need of food aid - one-fifth of the country’s population - including 5.4 million in Tigray, according to the WFP