Witnesses: Ethiopian military airstrikes hit the capital of Tigray

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Ethiopian military airstrikes have hit the capital of the country’s Tigray region, killing at least …

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Ethiopian military airstrikes have hit the capital of the country’s Tigray region, killing at least three people, witnesses said on Monday, returning to Mekele after several months of peace.

The airstrikes, confirmed by two humanitarian workers, came days after a new military offensive was launched against the Tigray forces, which have been fighting Ethiopian and allied forces for nearly a year.

Mekele has not seen fighting since the end of June, when Tigray forces took over much of the region and Ethiopian troops withdrew. Since then, the Ethiopian federal government has called on all capable citizens to crush the Tigray warriors who dominated the national government for 27 years before being put on the sidelines by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. What began as a political conflict in Africa’s second largest population has now killed thousands of people.

Spokesmen for the military and the prime minister did not immediately respond to questions.

A resident of Mekele, Kindeya Gebrehiwot, told the Associated Press that a market was bombed on a busy market day. Kindeya, a spokesman for the Tigray authorities, claimed that many people were injured. Another resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the first air strike took place just outside the city and three children from the same family were killed. The resident said at least seven people were injured in the second air strike, which also severely damaged a hotel.

The Tigray region, along with the current battlefields of the nearby Amhara and Afar regions, is under a communications outage, making it challenging to verify information.

Tigray forces have said they are trying to pressure the Ethiopian government to lift a deadly blockade imposed on the Tigray region since the dramatic turn of the war in June. But witnesses in the Amhara region have claimed door-to-door killings and other atrocities against civilians from the Tigray warriors — an echo of the atrocities reported by Tigrayans at the hands of Ethiopian and Allied forces earlier in the war.

The new offensive is raging despite pressure from the UN, the US, the EU and other African nations on a ceasefire, negotiations and humanitarian access. The United States threatened a new round of targeted sanctions a month ago if steps toward those goals were not taken quickly.

Instead, the warring parties have shown no signs of stopping. “The opportunity for peaceful dialogue that the people of Tigray had been waiting for has no hope,” Tigray forces said in a statement Sunday.

The last time the Ethiopian military carried out an air strike near Mekele was in June, when a market in Togoga outside the city was hit and at least 64 civilians were killed. Soldiers blocked for hours medical teams from responding to casualties.

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