The Ethiopian military has launched two airstrikes on rebel targets in Tigray, as part of a second round of bombardments in the war-battered region this week.
The latest strikes were conducted on Wednesday, targeting, among other areas, the regional capital, Mekelle, and hitting a military training center and heavy artillery depot, government spokesperson Legesse Tulu said.
A television aligned with the rebels said the attacks had targeted the center of the city, whereas Legesse told news agencies that they had targeted “facilities that Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has turned into arms construction and repair armaments sites.”
Two witnesses and a humanitarian source in Mekelle told news agencies that the strikes appeared to have targeted the Mesfin Industrial Engineering PLC, a factory complex that the government believes supports the TPLF.
A TPLF spokesman, Getachew Reda, claimed on Twitter that the airstrikes had “targeted a residential quarters in Mekelle causing injury to civilians and harm to property.”
At least 14 people were injured in the airstrikes in Mekelle, and three of them were in critical condition, Hayelom Kebede, the former director of Tigray’s flagship Ayder Referral Hospital, told news agencies.
The blast from the strikes shattered the windows of Mekelle General Hospital, about one kilometer from Mesfin Industrial, and damaged nearby homes, said a doctor at the hospital, who had received five wounded people.
“Four of them were factory employees and the fifth one is a lady whose lives near the factory. Her house was destroyed by the airstrike,” the doctor said.
The civil war in northern Ethiopia, concentrated in Tigray, has been intensifying. Thousands of people have been killed and more than two million forced to flee their homes since fighting began almost a year ago.
International pleas to stop the fighting have failed so far, and according to UNICEF, an estimated 18,600 children under the age of five in Tigray were admitted for treatment for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) only between February and August this year.
According to the UN, Tigray is under a de facto blockade that is preventing most aid from reaching the region, spurring fears of a repeat of the mass starvation that turned Ethiopia into a byword for famine in the 1980s.
Ethiopia’s government has called on “all capable Ethiopians” to join the central government in the fight against the TPLF. Ethiopian officials accuse the international community of ignoring abuses committed by the rebel group.