The capital of the Tigray region, Mekélé, in northern Ethiopia, was hit by an airstrike on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Tigray rebels and a hospital official announced on Twitter.
The strike, which cannot be independently verified, comes two days after Tigray rebels declared themselves ready to participate in African Union (AU) mediated peace talks with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government after a war. which lasts from November 2020.
“Abiy Ahmed’s drones targeted the Adi Haki campus of Mekélé University,” Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the Tigray rebels, said on Twitter.
Another spokesman for the rebels, Kindeya Gebrehiwot, also said that Mekélé University had been “bombed”, causing injuries and material damage.
This strike “comes after the Tigray government formed a negotiating team” and declared itself ready for “peace talks”.
Kibrom Gebreselassie, head of a hospital in the Tigray region, also said on Twitter that Mekélé was hit “by a drone strike” early in the morning.
“One victim arrived at Ayder hospital. The total number of victims is not yet known,” he wrote.
Journalists have no access to northern Ethiopia and telecommunications networks operate in a very haphazard manner, making independent verification impossible.
The Ethiopian government has not yet officially reacted.
The fighting in northern Ethiopia has been fought on multiple fronts since hostilities resumed after a five-month lull on August 24, for which both sides blame each other.
The rebels accuse the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies of having launched a joint offensive from Eritrea, a country that borders on northern Tigray and has already given a hand to Ethiopian forces during the first phase of the conflict.
– “Opportunity” for peace –
The Tigray rebels said they were ready for AU-mediated talks with the Ethiopian government on Sunday. The international community, including the United Nations and the US Secretary of State, called on Monday to seize the “opportunity” for peace in Ethiopia.
Sunday’s statement said that a negotiating team made up of Getachew Reda and General Tsadkan Gebretensae, former chief of staff of the Ethiopian army now in central military command in Tigray, is “ready to be deployed without delay”.
Earlier this month, Tigray rebel leader Debretsion Gebremichael offered a conditional truce by providing “unhindered humanitarian access” and the restoration of essential services in Tigray, which suffers from food shortages and a lack of electricity, communications and banking. .
In a letter addressed to the UN Secretary General, he also called for the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from all over Ethiopia and Tigray.
In March, the UN said more than 300 civilians had been killed, and nearly as many injured, in the previous three months in a series of aerial bombardments in northern Ethiopia, particularly in the Tigray region.
The government has in the past accused Tigray rebels of faking civilian deaths as a result of air strikes and insisted that it only target military sites.
The conflict in northern Ethiopia erupted in November 2020, when Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, sent the federal army to Tigray to drive dissident authorities out of the region, accusing them of attacking military bases.
Initially defeated, Tigray rebel forces regained control of most of the region in 2021, in a counter-offensive that extended to Amhara and Afar. They then retreated to the Tigray.
The toll of the conflict in Tigray is unknown, but according to the United Nations it has caused the displacement of more than two million people and precipitated hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians in conditions of near famine.
According to the United Nations, the resumption of fighting has completely disrupted the transport of humanitarian aid by road and air to the Tigray region and its neighbors Amhara and Afar.