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Ethiopian Airlines Touches Tigray

Excited Passengers Arrive in Mekele on First Ethiopian Airlines To Tigray in Two-years. Taken Dec.28, 2022

Families embraced and wept in emotional reunions Wednesday after the first commercial flight in 18 months between Ethiopia's capital city and the war-torn Tigray region to the north.

On Wednesday, passengers arriving from Mekele were greeted by relatives at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa with long embraces, flowers and tears. The flight was a return from the Tigrayan "capital."

Fana Broadcasting Corporate, a state-affiliated channel, said the flight to Mekele departed around lunchtime. The government's Ethiopian News Agency broadcast images of passengers aboard the plane.

Getachew Reda, a spokesman for Tigray's regional government, said on Twitter that an Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet had landed at Mekele's airport.

Tigrai TV, a rebel-affiliated network, aired footage of passengers dropping to their knees and kissing the tarmac upon arrival in Mekele.

Kindeya Gebrehiwot, another Tigrayan official, hailed it as a "milestone" and said more services would soon return to the war-weary region.

Ethiopian Airlines, the biggest carrier in Africa, announced this week it would lift its suspension on flights to Tigray with the first charter to the region since June 2021.

The return of flights between Addis Ababa and Tigray's capital Mekele follows a ceasefire reached between government and rebel forces last month and the gradual reopening of the stricken region.

A high-level government delegation visited Tigray this week for the first time since the signing of the peace deal in November to end two years of bloodshed in Africa's second-most populous country.

Estimates of casualties vary widely, with the United States saying that as many as half a million people have died, while the European Union says more than 100,000 people may have been killed.