Ethiopian airstrikes in Tigray force UN flight to turn around – .

Ethiopian airstrikes in Tigray force UN flight to turn around – .

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Ethiopian military airstrikes on Friday forced a United Nations humanitarian flight to abandon its landing in the capital of the Tigray region, aid workers said, and a government spokesperson said authorities were aware of the incoming flight. It appeared to be a sharp escalation in the intimidation tactics authorities have used against aid workers amid the escalation of the year-long Tigray War..

“A United Nations Humanitarian Air Services flight that had been cleared by federal authorities to carry 11 passengers from Addis Ababa to Mekele on October 22 was ordered to stop the landing by the flight control tower. ‘Mekele airport,’ the World Food Program told The Associated Press. He returned safe and sound to Addis Ababa, and the UN and its partners “are carefully examining the circumstances.”

WFP said all such flights to Mekele “have been suspended until further notice”. The city is the main base for humanitarian operations in Tigray.

Friction between government and aid groups is occurring amid the world’s worst food crisis in a decade, with nearly half a million people in Tigray reportedly facing conditions of starvation. Since June, the government has imposed what the UN calls a “de facto humanitarian blockade” on the region of some 6 million people, and the PA has reported that people have started to starve to death. to death.

Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu said the PA authorities knew the UN flight was in the region, but said UN and military flights had a “different time and direction.” It was not immediately clear how close the planes got to each other.

Tigris Forces spokesman Getachew Reda said in a tweet that “our air defense units knew that the UN plane was about to land and that it was largely because of their restraint that he had not been caught between two fires ”. He suggested that the Ethiopian authorities “prepare the UN plane to be hit by our guns.”

A military spokesperson did not answer questions.

Legesse said Friday’s airstrikes in Mekele targeted a former military training center used as a “combat network hub” by rival forces in Tigray. Residents confirmed the latest airstrikes, saying they took place near Mekele University. Tigray spokesman Kindeya Gebrehiwot told the PA that a dozen people were injured.

The Ethiopian government has accused some aid groups in recent months of supporting Tigray’s forces, and last month it took the extraordinary step of expelling seven UN officials while accusing them without evidence of falsely inflating it. magnitude of the Tigray crisis. Authorities also subjected aid workers on UN flights to intrusive searches and removed medical cargo. Meanwhile, the UN says only 1% of the 5.2 million targeted people in urgent need received food assistance between October 7 and 13.

Thousands of people have been killed since November, when a political feud between the Tigray forces that have long dominated the national government and the current administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed erupted into fighting.

In recent months, Tigray forces have recaptured the Tigray region and brought the fighting to neighboring areas of Amhara and Afar. The UN says more than 2 million people are now displaced overall.

The Ethiopian government this week launched airstrikes in Mekele for the first time in several months, killing three children and injuring more than a dozen people, despite repeated calls from the international community for a ceasefire and threatens new sanctions.

On Thursday, the government claimed responsibility for a successful strike against another military base used by Tigray forces near Mekele, but the Tigray forces spokesman said air defenses were preventing the plane from hitting targets.

An airstrike on Wednesday struck an industrial complex the government said it was used by Tigray forces to repair weapons. A spokesperson for Tigray denied this and said it was used to produce cars and tractors. Two more airstrikes hit the city on Monday.

Tigray remains subject to a communication failure, making it difficult to verify claims, while combat areas in Amhara are also largely inaccessible.

The airstrikes come amid reports of further intense fighting in Amhara. On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Tigray forces said the advances had placed the government-held towns of Dessie and Kombolcha “within artillery range”, raising alarms.

Dessie hosts large numbers of displaced people who have fled the fighting further north. A resident told the AP he had seen many cars leaving town with mattresses, kitchen equipment and other household items strapped to their roofs in recent days, but many displaced people are stranded because ‘they can’t afford to leave.

He also reported many vehicles transporting troops north to the front line and the constant noise of shelling. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.


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