Ethiopian attack in two northern regions intensifies, Tigrayan forces say
An air and ground offensive by Ethiopian troops and their allies against rebel forces in the northern Tigray region is intensifying, a spokesperson for Tigrayan forces said on Wednesday, citing “appalling” losses. Getachew Reda of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) told Reuters by telephone that the Ethiopian army and its allies in the Amhara region were fighting the Tigray forces on several fronts, in the Amhara and Afar regions. , neighbors of Tigray.
An Ethiopian military spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The military and government have failed to recognize a new offensive, which the TPLF says began with airstrikes last week, days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was sworn in to a new five-year term . “It is an ongoing fight and the number of casualties is staggering,” Getachew said, adding that he could not give details of the number of dead or injured. He said there was fighting near the town of Weldiya in Amhara and fighting resumed in Afar, in the Haro and Chifra areas near the Amhara border.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the situation on the ground or confirm the number of casualties as the area is closed to reporters and many telephone connections are cut. The fighting has raised fears that it will further destabilize the Horn of Africa nation of 109 million people and plunge Tigray deeper into famine. The conflict has already attracted neighboring Ethiopia, the secret and repressive nation of Eritrea, which sent troops across the border to support the Ethiopian military when the conflict erupted in November 2020.
Aid workers citing witnesses told Reuters that Eritrean fighters remain in Ethiopia and participate in the conflict. Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Another aid worker citing witnesses said Eritrean forces were fighting the Tigrayans in Berhale, a town in Afar region. The US State Department said on Tuesday it was considering the use of economic sanctions to penalize parties responsible for the violence.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and millions displaced by the fighting since war broke out in Tigray. Tigrayan forces were initially pushed back, but recaptured most of the region in July and pushed into neighboring areas of Amhara and Afar, displacing hundreds of thousands more. Amhara claims Western Tigray, a swathe of fertile farmland with a strategically important border with Sudan, which has been under Amhara’s control since the fighting began. Tigray’s borders are now surrounded by hostile forces, and the United Nations says the government is blocking food aid to hundreds of thousands of starving people – a charge it denies.
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Wednesday that in Tigray, more than 90% of the population was in need of food assistance and that around 400,000 people were living in conditions close to famine, according to the latest UN analysis. “We are seeing rates of acute malnutrition, at levels comparable to those we saw at the start of the famine in Somalia in 2011,” he said.
In this famine in Somalia, 260,000 people died. Tedros said no medical supplies had entered Tigray since July.
“Only a fraction of health facilities in Tigray remain operational due to a lack of fuel and supplies. People with chronic diseases are dying from lack of food and medicine, ”he told a press conference in Geneva. Prime Minister’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum and Health Minister Lia Tadesse did not immediately respond to Reuters messages requesting comment on Tedros’ statement. (Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Maggie Fick; editing by George Obulutsa, Katharine Houreld and)
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