At least 108 civilians have been killed so far in January in Tigray airstrikes, the UN says

At least 108 civilians have been killed this month in a series of airstrikes in the war-torn northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, the UN said on Friday.

The UN also warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe in the region, with its food distribution on the verge of halting.

The UN Office for Human Rights called on the Ethiopian authorities to ensure the protection of civilians, and said that disproportionate attacks on non-military targets could constitute war crimes.

Northern Ethiopia has been embroiled in conflict since November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to Tigray after accusing the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of attacks on federal army camps.

“We are concerned about the many, deeply disturbing reports we continue to receive about civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian objects as a result of air strikes in the Tigray region of Ethiopia,” Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the rights office, told reporters in Geneva.

“At least 108 civilians have been killed and 75 others injured since the beginning of the year, as a result of airstrikes allegedly carried out by the Ethiopian air force.”

She described a series of airstrikes, including the January 7 attack on the Dedebit camp for internally displaced persons, which left at least 56 dead and 30 others injured, three of whom later died in hospital.

On Monday, 17 civilians were killed and 21 were injured after an air strike hit a milk mill, and on Tuesday, the state-owned institute for technical vocational training was reported and killed three men, says Throssell.

Several other airstrikes were reported last week, she added.

“We call on the Ethiopian authorities and their allies to ensure the protection of civil and civilian objects, in line with their obligations under international law,” said Throssell.

“Failure to respect the principles of segregation and proportionality can lead to war crimes.”

At the same time, the UN World Food Program said its distributions were at an all-time low, with the escalation of the conflict meaning no WFP convoy has reached Tigray’s capital, Mekele, since mid-December.

“Life-saving food aid operations in northern Ethiopia are on the verge of halting due to intense fighting in the neighborhood that has blocked the passage of fuel and food,” WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri told reporters.

“After 14 months of conflict in northern Ethiopia, more people than ever need urgent food aid.

“Without food, no fuel, no supply, we are on the brink of a major humanitarian catastrophe.”

(AFP)

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