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News: UNICEF “strongly condemns” Mekelle air strike killing children, govt. denies civilian causalities

Footage of the wreckage which included a building that housed children’s’ playground. Picture: Screenshot/DW

By Addis Standard Staff

Addis Abeba – Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF, said “UNICEF strongly condemns the air strike in Mekelle the capital city of the Tigray Region” and called “on all parties to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities.”

The statement from the Executive Director said the “strike hit a kindergarten, killing several children, and injuring others.”

“Yet again, an escalation of violence in northern Ethiopia has caused children to pay the heaviest price. For almost two years, children and their families in the region have endured the agony of this conflict. It must end,” Catherine said in a statement.

Legesse Tulu (PhD), Minister of the Government Communication Service, denied news of civilians casualties. He told Reuters the news was “lies and fabricated drama” and accused Tigrayan authorities of “dumping body bags.” He also “denied government strikes hit civilian facilities and said they only targeted military sites.”

But Kibrom Gebreselassie, Chief Executive Director, Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital, Associate Professor of Surgery, Cardiovascular and thoracic Surgeon, said yesterday that four of the 13 people who were admitted to the hospital have already died, two were children. “More casualties are arriving. The total number so far in our hospital is 13. Four of them are dead (two children).”

Fasika Amdeslasie, Associate Professor of Surgery, Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital and former Dean of Medical School, Mekelle University, tweeted they “don’t have essential [medicine] and supplies in our emergency department, and air strike casualties, women and children are coming. We can not save them. What do you call this situation? What name can you give it? [Sieged] and bombed.”

Fasika later told Reuters that the number of people who were killed stood at seven, including “a mother and her child and another unidentified person.” He also said causalities included a “boy around 10, two women and a young teenager.”

Shortly after the footage of the effects of the air strike began circulating on Friday 26 August, the federal government released a statement calling upon the residents in Tigray to avoid areas where “military equipment, training facilities are located.”

TV footage released by local media Tigray TV and Dimtsi Woyane showed the wreckage of a building that included children’s’ playground, injured civilians being tended to by first responders, graphic images of bodied cut into pieces.

The news of the air strike, which has not been admitted by both the federal government, the army and the air forces, took place two days after the federal government and Tigrayan forces accused each other of the resumption of militarily hostilities after a lull in active fighting following a truce announced by each on 24 and 25 March this year, respectively.

The federal government blamed Tigrayan forces for the resumption of military hostilities. “Leaving aside all the peace options presented by the government, the terrorist group, the TPLF…launched an attack this morning in the eastern front in Biso Ber, Zobl and Tekulesh directions starting from 5 AM…” the statement said, adding the with the measure, Tigrayan forces “officially broke the ceasefire.”

The statement from the federal government came a few hours after the Tigrayan forces released their own statement accusing the federal forces, as well as various Amhara special forces, Wollo Fano and militia of launching a military attack “this morning at 5 AM…in the direction of Chobe Ber, Janora, Yalo, Alamata, Bala and Biso Ber.”

Since then there has been several calls for de-escalation and return to peace talks made by the international community, including the U.S. which acknowledged that the respect for the truce over the past five months “has saved countless lives and enabled assistance to reach tens of thousands” but cautioned that the recent “provocations on the battlefield, bellicose rhetoric, and the lack of a durable ceasefire now threaten this progress.” AS

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