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Tigray Turmoil Continues

FILE - Bullet holes are seen on a mosque, caused by fighting between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) forces in Kasagita town, Afar region, Ethiopia. Taken 2.25.2022

UPDATED: Ethiopian forces on Friday carried out an airstrike on the Tigrayan capital Mekele, causing casualties according to a hospital spokesperson.

Four people including two children were killed and nine others injured in an air strike on Tigray on Friday, a hospital official said, as rebels accused Ethiopian forces of bombing the region's capital Mekele.

"Four are dead by the time they arrive (at) the hospital. Two of the dead are children," Kibrom Gebreselassie, chief clinical director at Mekele's Ayder Referral Hospital, told AFP in a message.

Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a spokesman for the Tigray People's Liberation Front, said "a civilian residential area & kindergarten" were hit in Mekele. Two humanitarian sources said they had been informed of an airstrike in Mekele but no other details were available.

Ethiopia on Friday vowed to "take action" against rebels in Tigray and urged civilians to stay away from military sites, after the airstrike reports emerged..

"While the readiness of the federal government to talk unconditionally is preserved, it will take action targeting the military forces that are the source of the anti-peace sentiment of the TPLF (Tigray People's Liberation Front)," the Government Communication Service said in a statement.

Friday's reported attack follows Thursday's second day of fighting between the TPLF and government forces that has shattered hopes for fledgling peace talks between the government and forces from the Tigray region.

“We are frequently hearing the sound of heavy weapons, more than the previous days,” a farmer in Amhara's Kobo area who did not wish to be named told Reuters. “More troops including those from Ethiopian National Defense Force, local militias and Fanos (volunteer militia) are heading to the front.”

A second resident confirmed his account.

Leul Mesfin, medical director of Dessie Hospital, the largest medical facility in the vicinity of the fighting, said that as of Thursday the facility had not received any casualties from the fighting, which is in Amhara region just to the south of Tigray.

Reuters was unable to reach the nearest hospital on the Tigrayan side as the region has been cut off from phone communications for more than a year.

It was not clear if the troops moving through Kobo were going to offensive or defensive positions, or who started the fighting.

Both sides blamed each other for breaking the four-month-old ceasefire between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government and the TPLF.

The now-broken ceasefire had allowed badly needed humanitarian aid to reach Tigray, where more than 90% of people need food aid. read more

On Wednesday, the United Nations said Tigrayan forces had seized 12 fuel tankers from a warehouse in Mekele. The government has heavily restricted fuel supplies from entering Tigray, and the tankers were supposed to have been used for distributing humanitarian aid.

On Thursday, the TPLF issued a statement saying the fuel had only been lent to the United Nations and they had needed to reclaim it.

The war in Tigray started in November 2020 after Tigrayan forces seized control of military bases in their region, saying they believed an attack by the military was imminent after the region held regional elections in defiance of a government order to delay them because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government has denied it was planning to attack Tigray, whose leaders dominated the government until Abiy swept to power in 2018.

The conflict has already displaced millions of people, pushed parts of Tigray into famine and killed thousands of civilians.

This report was prepared with information furnished by Agence France-Presse and Reuters.