Ethiopian federal forces have been at war with the regional government of Tigrei, which borders Eritrea and Sudan, since early November, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed announced a military offensive, including air strikes.
“Since then, there have been frequent bombings in the capital, Tigrei Mekel, including near a church and university,”
Abiy’s government did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. Earlier, she denied bombing civilian areas and accused Tigrei’s local forces of harboring military equipment in schools, mosques and churches.
On Wednesday, Redouan Hussein, a government spokesman for the Ethiopian Emergency Task Force, told CNN that federal troops were closing in on Mekel.
The humanitarian source also told CNN that tens of thousands have been displaced since the fighting began. More than 30,000 Ethiopian refugees have moved to neighboring Sudan to escape the conflict, the UN said earlier this month.
Aid groups operating in the region are also concerned about a growing humanitarian crisis and urge access to the region. An additional estimated 1.1 million people will need emergency aid, in addition to the one million already dependent on aid, according to the UN.
Tigrei’s ruling party, the TPLF, refused to surrender and had previously accused federal forces of killing civilians, a claim denied by the Ethiopian government. CNN was unable to verify claims from either party due to communication disruptions.
The escalating conflict has sparked international calls for restraint, as political analysts and diplomats warn that the transition to civil war could not only destabilize the 110 million-strong country but also harm the wider Horn of Africa.
Bethlehem Feleke reports from Nairobi. Rahim dies and writes in London.