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Ethiopian Government Launches Airstrike on Tigray Capital Mekelle

People inspect a damaged playground following an airstrike in Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, Aug. 26, 2022, in this still image taken from video. (Tigrai TV/Reuters TV via Reuters)

An Ethiopian government airstrike hit the capital of the volatile Tigray region Friday, reportedly killing several people. The airstrike followed the collapse of a humanitarian cease-fire in northern Ethiopia that had halted fighting for five months.

The French news agency Agence France-Presse reports that just before 3 p.m. local time Friday, the Ethiopian Air Force bombed targets in the Tigray region's capital of Mekelle.

A doctor at a Mekelle hospital later told the Reuters news agency the airstrike hit a children's playground, killing at least four people, including two children.

The Ethiopian federal government issued a statement online advising all citizens in Tigray to keep away from potential military targets.

Some on Twitter pointed out that most communications have been severed in Tigray for months due to a government shutdown of the internet, and that people inside Tigray would have no way of seeing the statement.

In an email to VOA, government spokesperson Selamawit Kassa said the Ethiopia Air Force is targeting only military sites. She accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, of "dumping fake body bags in civilian areas in order to claim that the Air Force attacked civilians." The TPLF, which has been fighting against the federal government since November 2020, is an armed political movement and the ruling party in the Tigray region.

An information war between the federal government and the TPLF has been ongoing since the civil war began almost two years ago.

Airstrikes are another escalation in the recent return to fighting in northern Ethiopia. On Wednesday, ground fighting in the Amhara region effectively ended a five-month cease-fire, which had raised hopes of peace talks.

The international community has expressed grave concern over the renewed hostilities. Humanitarian organizations say even before fighting intensified, large parts of Tigray were likely in a state of famine.