Aid agencies suspend work in Tigray after deadly strike

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Humanitarian organisations have suspended their activities in Ethiopia's stricken Tigray region which was hit by a deadly airstrike on a camp for displaced people.

the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) revealed this on Sunday, “Humanitarian partners have suspended their activities in the area due to continued threats of drone strikes."

Initial information from OCHA suggested that the attack which took place at around midnight on Friday against the IDP camp "caused dozens of civilian casualties, including deaths".

The Tigrayan rebels accused the government on Saturday of carrying out a drone attack claiming, 56 people were killed. However, an official at the region's main hospital said 55 people were killed with 126 sustaining injuries.

In a Twitter post on Sunday, Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesperson, Getachew Reda claimed that the Eritrean army, which has supported Ethiopian government forces against the rebels and has been accused of committing atrocities, had launched attacks on its fighters in northwest Tigray on Saturday.

He accused Eritrea of seeking to "sabotage all peace efforts in the region, supposedly to protect Ethiopia's unity".

But it was impossible to verify these claims independently, as access to Tigray was severely restricted and communications were cut off in the region.

Ethiopian government officials did not respond to requests from AFP.

Impact on the health system

According to OCHA, the lack of essential supplies, particularly medical equipment and fuel, has tendencies of "… severely disrupting the response to the wounded and has led to the near-collapse of the health system in Tigray.

"The intensification of airstrikes is alarming, and we once again remind all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law," the UN agency added.

Calls for "national reconciliation

The attack came as the Ethiopian government announced an amnesty for several senior TPLF and other opposition leaders, following a call for "national reconciliation" during the Orthodox Christmas celebrations by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The amnesty was welcomed by the United Nations and the African Union, which are spearheading international efforts to end the conflict, and called for the opportunity to be used to start a "dialogue".

It was not clear whether the government had offered negotiations to the TPLF, the party that effectively ruled Ethiopia for three decades until Mr Abiy took power in 2018 and is now considered a "terrorist" group by Addis Ababa.

The conflict began in November 2020 when the federal army intervened in Tigray to remove regional authorities - from the TPLF - who were challenging its authority.

A TPLF counter-offensive allowed the rebels to recapture most of the region at the end of June 2021 and to advance into neighbouring Amhara and Afar. They claimed in November to have reached 200 km from Addis Ababa.

Thousands have died in the conflict. Tigray is under a "de facto blockade" of humanitarian aid, according to the UN.

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