UN condemns Ethiopia airstrike that 'hit kindergarten'
The airstrike is said to have "hit a kindergarten" in Ethiopia's Tigray region, killing at least four people including two children.
At least four people, including two children, were killed in an Ethiopian airstrike that "struck a kindergarten" in the Tigray region, according to the UNICEF agency for children, on Saturday.
The government accused the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of staging deaths, denying targeting any civilian areas in the recent airstrike.
"UNICEF strongly condemns the air strike ... (that) hit a kindergarten, killing several children, and injuring others," the agency's executive director Catherine Russell said on Twitter.
UNICEF strongly condemns the air strike in Mekelle, the capital city of the Tigray Region, Ethiopia. The strike hit a kindergarten, killing several children, and injuring others. UNICEF calls on all parties to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities.— Catherine Russell (@unicefchief) August 26, 2022
"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."
A few days prior to the bombardment, fighting broke out between TPLF rebels and government forces on Tigray's southern border, breaking a five-month ceasefire and shattering hopes for peace negotiations. The TPLF revealed that the air strike demolished a kindergarten and hit a residential area.
However, the government denied the group's claims, arguing that only military sites were targeted and accused the TPLF of "dumping fake body bags in civilian areas" to maximize outrage.
Chief clinical director at Mekele's Ayder Referral Hospital, Kibrom Gebreselassie, revealed to AFP that four people died in the strike, including two children. Nine others were receiving treatment for injuries, he added.
Local television station Tigrai TV reported that seven people had died and showed images of the alleged hit site, which included wrecked playground equipment and a brilliantly painted compound in ruins. The statements could not be independently verified because of the difficult access to northern Ethiopia.
What about international law?
For its part, the EU condemned the strike and called for a peaceful settlement to the 21-month war. "I urge again for the respect of International Humanitarian Law. Civilians are #NotATarget," the EU commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, said on Twitter.
I condemn today’s air strikes in #Mekelle, which resulted in the deaths of civilians. I urge again for the respect of International Humanitarian Law. Civilians are #NotATarget. I call on all parties to engage in peace talks and to allow humanitarian aid to reach those in need.— Janez Lenarčič (@JanezLenarcic) August 26, 2022
The UN said that at least 304 civilians had been killed in March as a result of airstrikes in the three months prior in northern Ethiopia.
War crimes may result from disproportionate assaults on non-military targets, the UN human rights office has warned. Ethiopia's air force operates the only known military aircraft over the country's skies.
A ceasefire in March halted the worst of the killing and let assistance convoys quietly re-enter Tigray, where the UN reports that millions of people are suffering from severe hunger and that fuel and medicine are in limited supply. But a few days ago, the two sides each accused the other of firing first as fresh offensives erupted along Tigray's southern border.
The international community, which has been pressuring both sides to peacefully end the war in Africa's second-most populous country, was frightened by the flare-up.
The conflict has killed a large number, with widespread reports of atrocities including mass killings and sexual violence.
Abiy dispatched troops into Tigray to overthrow the TPLF in November 2020, which he claimed was responsible for attacks on federal army bases.