At least four people, including two children, were killed and nine wounded Friday in an Ethiopian air strike on Mekele, capital of the rebel region of Tigray, according to an official at the city's main hospital.
Ayder Hospital in Mekele "received 13 patients, four of whom had died on arrival. Two of the dead are children," its medical director, Dr Kibrom Gebreselassie, told AFP.
The bombing in the heart of this breakaway region of northern Ethiopia marks a sharp escalation after renewed fighting on Wednesday between government forces and Tigrayan rebels of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) on the region's southern border. The renewed violence ended a five-month truce.
"In mid-day, an aircraft (...) dropped bombs on a residential area and a kindergarten in Mekele. Civilians were killed and injured," Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a spokesman for the rebel authorities, told AFP in a message. Two humanitarian sources said they had been informed of an air strike in Mekele, but gave no details or casualties.
Shortly afterwards, the federal government announced in a statement that, although it remained "fully prepared" to hold unconditional talks with the rebels, it intended to "carry out actions targeting military forces (...) opposed to peace". It called on the population living in Tigray "to stay away from areas where rebel military equipment and training facilities are located".
The resumption of fighting is worrying the international community, which fears a resumption of the conflict on a large scale and that the meagre hopes of peace negotiations will be dashed.
Since Wednesday, many countries and international organisations, led by the UN, the United States and the European Union, have called for a cessation of hostilities and a peaceful resolution to the 21-month conflict.
Since it broke out in November 2020, the war in northern Ethiopia has killed several thousand people, displaced more than two million and plunged hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians into near-starvation conditions, according to the United Nations.
The truce reached at the end of March allowed the gradual resumption of the delivery of humanitarian aid by road to Tigray, after three months of interruption.
Since the end of June, the Ethiopian government and the Tigrayan rebels have repeatedly stated their willingness to enter into peace negotiations, but continue to disagree on the modalities. The federal government wants immediate talks without preconditions, under the aegis of the African Union (AU).
The rebels are demanding the restoration of electricity, telecommunications and banking services to Tigray and reject the mediation of AU High Representative Olusegun Obasanjo.