The United Nations said Friday it is “alarmed” at the killing of 108 civilians in Ethiopia’s Tigray region since the start of the year as reports mount of airstrikes carried out by the Ethiopian air force in the war-torn area.
At the same time, the UN World Food Program (WFP) warned that fighting is blocking the passage of lifesaving food and fuel to Tigray.
At a UN press conference, Liz Throssell, a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson, said that her office also had reports of at least 75 civilians wounded.
She said her office is getting “multiple, deeply disturbing reports” of civilian casualties and destruction of civilian objects.
“At least 108 civilians have reportedly been killed and 75 others injured since the year began, as a result of airstrikes allegedly carried out by the Ethiopian air force,” she said as the WFP warned fighting is blocking the passage of food to Tigray.
The deadliest airstrike so far this year hit the Dedebit camp for internally displaced persons on Jan. 7, leaving at least 56 people dead and 30 others wounded.
Later the UN established that three of those critically injured later died in hospital, pushing the death toll from that single strike to at least 59.
Throssell said that on Wednesday, an airstrike claimed the life of a 72-year-old man, while the previous day, on Jan. 11, the state-owned Technical Vocational Education and Training institute was hit, reportedly killing three men and leaving 21 people injured – most of them women.
And on Monday, Jan. 10, 17 civilians were reportedly killed and 21 injured – most of them women – after an airstrike, allegedly carried out by a drone, hit a flour mill where they had gathered to grind grains into flour.
“Numerous other airstrikes were reported last week, hitting a private minibus traveling from Adiet to Axum city, Shire airport, Mai-Aini refugee camp, and other areas,” said Throssell.
At the UN press conference, Tomson Phiri, the WFP Geneva spokesman, said, “The World Food Program is today warning that its lifesaving food assistance operations in northern Ethiopia are about to grind to a halt.
“That is because intense fighting in the neighborhood has blocked the passage of fuel and food. The escalation of conflict across northern Ethiopia means that no WFP convoy has reached Mechelen since mid-December.”
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, acute food insecurity has affected more than 9.4 million people in northern Ethiopia since December.
Within Tigray, 5.2 million people, roughly 90% of the population, need humanitarian aid.
According to the UN, all parties to the conflict, including the army, Tigrayan forces, and the Eritrean military, have “to varying degrees” committed violations of international human rights.
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