Ethiopia said on Thursday that its air force destroyed a military equipment maintenance site run by rebels in Mekele, the regional capital of Tigray.
“Today in Mekele an ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Forces) airstrike destroyed the second part of Mesfin industrial engineering. The facility was used by the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) terrorist group for maintaining its military equipment,” the government communication service told Anadolu Agency.
Thursday, which was the seventh day of aerial bombardment in less than two weeks by government forces targeting the TPLF rebels, also saw reported cases of civilian casualties by locals.
A doctor who spoke to Anadolu Agency said emergency medical teams had reported that “some households housing civilians have been completely destroyed.”
“I don’t have the right figures but they estimate that at least three people may have been killed as this is a residential place where families live. The death toll may be higher, rescue efforts are underway,” added the doctor.
Ethiopia claimed the aerial bombardments that began just a week ago were surgical and away from civilian settlements, but the TPLF and locals have alleged that the attacks are landing on civilian-populated areas, destroying infrastructure, and claiming innocent lives, including at least three children.
Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesman, accused the government of targeting civilians in its bid to wrest control of territory taken by the group.
“(Prime Minister) Abiy Ahmed’s airstrike today has targeted yet another residential neighborhood in the Tabiya 05 (area) of the city of Mekelle. Members of two entire families are among the killed and wounded,” he said on Thursday.
Aid access impacted
Last year, the Ethiopian government said TPLF forces raided the northern command of the ENDF, killing soldiers and looting sizable military hardware on Nov. 3.
The following day, the government launched a sweeping law enforcement operation against the group’s leaders.
Armed hostilities have crippled humanitarian access for nearly half a million people facing famine-like conditions in the Tigray region.
The UN warned that the bombardments, armed ground conflicts, and shortage of fuel are impacting the ability of aid partners to mobilize assistance to the affected.
Movements of aid supplies have practically stopped in areas where stocks of food aid and other relief items have been depleted.
The UN said that in August, humanitarian aid stakeholders learned about nine Ethiopian national aid workers killed in Tigray earlier in the year, bringing the number of aid workers killed to 23. That makes the Tigray region one of the most insecure environments for aid workers globally
Ahmed’s administration declared a unilateral cease-fire and withdrew troops from Tigray on June 29.
The TPLF has been expanding ever since into neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.
According to the UN, 2 million people have been internally displaced and thousands have died in the war.