Ethiopia’s military on Sunday launched two airstrikes on what a government official said were rebel-held facilities in Tigray, capping a week of near-daily attacks in the war-torn northern region.
The strikes, far from the regional capital Mekele, signalled the military was potentially widening its campaign of aerial bombardments which has drawn international rebukes and disrupted UN flights to the famine-threatened territory.
“Today the western front of (Mai Tsebri) which was serving as a training and military command post for the terrorist group TPLF has been the target of an air strike,” government spokeswoman Selamawit Kassa said, referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Later, Selamawit said the same mission destroyed a separate facility in the northern town of Adwa used to manufacture “military equipments” as well as fake military uniforms used by TPLF combatants.
TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said on Twitter that the target in Mai Tsebri was a hospital, and that the target in Adwa was a textiles factory that was looted in an earlier stage of the conflict by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers.
Selamawit, however, said the Mai Tsebri strike “only targeted… a military training and command base” of the TPLF, while confirming that Getachew was correct about the textiles factory.
The TPLF has condemned earlier strikes as evidence of the government’s disregard for civilian lives.
There was no immediate information on casualties in either Mai Tsebri or Adwa.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has been locked in a war against the TPLF since last November, though Tigray itself had seen little combat since late June, when the rebels seized control of much of Ethiopia’s northernmost region and the military largely withdrew.
But on Monday Ethiopia’s air force launched two strikes on Tigray’s capital Mekele that the UN said killed three children and wounded several other people.
Since then there have been three more strikes on Mekele and another targeting what the government described as a weapons cache in the town of Agbe, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) to the west.
The strikes coincide with ramped-up fighting in Amhara region, south of Tigray.
They have drawn rebukes from Western powers, with the US last week condemning “the continuing escalation of violence, putting civilians in harm’s way”.
UN suspends flights
A strike Friday on Mekele forced a UN flight carrying 11 humanitarian personnel to turn back to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, and the UN subsequently announced it was suspending its twice-weekly flights to the region.
Getachew on Friday criticised the air force for putting the UN flight at risk.
“Our air defense units knew the UN plane was scheduled to land & it was due in large measure to their restraint it was not caught in a crossfire,” Getachew said on Twitter.
The TPLF issued a statement Saturday saying the incident revealed the government’s “intention to continue obstructing humanitarian operations”.
The conflict has spurred fears of widespread starvation, as the UN estimates it has pushed 400,000 people in Tigray into famine-like conditions.