The past week has seen renewed clashes between government and Tigrinya forces in various areas of northern Ethiopia. On the one hand about 4 air raids were carried out by government forces against Tigrinya rebels, mainly in Mekelle but also in other areas. On the other hand, although there is no confirmation from independent media yet, it seems that Tigrinya forces are continuing their advance towards Addis Ababa unchallenged.
The first airstrike was conducted Monday, October 18, the day of the market in Mekelle, and seems to have produced victims among civilians even if the government says that the targets were infrastructures for military use. Nevertheless, UNOCHA reported the death of three children during these airstrikes. Other airstrikes were conducted on Mekelle during the week, and while the government claims that these were directed against military targets, particularly sites housing heavy artillery, some NGO activists claim that these were directed against residential buildings.
During one of these air raids, on October 22, one of the UN flights that was delivering humanitarian aid to Tigray was forced to abort the landing. The Ethiopian government claimed that the raid was directed at a training center for Tigrayan forces. The authorities in Mekelle have advised the plane to turn around and return to Addis Ababa because the landing was not safe, however it had received the green light a few hours earlier from the federal forces in Addis Ababa. A situation that certainly does not help the easing of relations between humanitarian agencies and the Ethiopian government.
The latest news of the air raids conducted by the government locate them in Adwa and May Tsebri, i.e. east and south of Mekelle. However, since communications are cut off in Tigray, it is difficult to verify the extent of the attacks at the moment. The same goes for the news reported by the Tigrayan forces: through his twitter account and interviews with the BBC, TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda gives the TPLF’s reading of these air raids and also provides an account of the military clashes.
Reda states that these raids were carried out to distract Ethiopian and international attention from the heavy losses the Addis Ababa army is suffering on the ground. While, regarding the UN plane, Reda stated that the permission granted by Addis Ababa for the flight hid the hope that it would be shot down by Tigrinya forces causing a scandal.
Moreover, through his twitter account, Reda said that on October 20, Tigrinya forces took control of Bisitima, Hayk and Marye heights which are a strategic point in relation to Dessie and Kombolcha. The two cities are located on the A2, one of the main communication arteries of the country, and are more or less equidistant from Mekelle and Addis Ababa. It seems therefore that the advance of the Tigrinya forces towards the Ethiopian capital continues inexorably.
The conflict continues its escalation and it seems that a peaceful solution is more and more distant given the continuous violent actions on both sides.