Ethiopia has launched a series of new air raids on Tigray, the secessionist province in the country’s north, in a significant escalation of the year-long conflict.
The bombing campaign saw the Ethiopian air force target weapons caches and other facilities belonging to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the militant group and political party that has fought for the region’s independence against the central government in Addis Ababa. Bombs targeted Mekelle, Tigray’s capital, as well as the western town of Agbe.
Legesse Tulu, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government, informed news outlets that the airstrikes had targeted “facilities that [the] TPLF have turned into arms construction and repair armaments sites.”
The TPLF’s description of the bombing disputed this assessment, saying that at least one of the bombs had been dropped on a residence and had caused injuries. In all, at least fourteen people were injured in the strikes.
Getachew Reda, an adviser to the TPLF’s president, criticized Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for the bombing, arguing that his “reaction to his losses in the ongoing fighting is to target civilians hundreds of kms away from the battlefield.”
Mekelle, which was recaptured by the TPLF in June after months of occupation by the Ethiopian military, had experienced a period of peace prior to the airstrikes. While the war has continued, fighting has largely been restricted to two neighboring Ethiopian regions, Amhara and Afar, where the TPLF captured territory during its earlier offensive. However, Mekelle had experienced some prior bombing; two days before the attack, the Ethiopian Air Force launched an air raid on communications towers in the city that killed three children.
While the TPLF has held its own on the ground, and sometimes pushed the government forces back, it has no air force or air defenses, making control over the sky an essential advantage for Ethiopian troops.
The Tigrayan conflict has also led to the involvement of neighboring Eritrea, which borders the region to its north. In 2020, Eritrea allied with Ethiopia and helped to occupy part of Tigray.
The fighting between the two sides has been fierce; up to two million people have been displaced, out of a prewar Tigrayan population of around five million. The Ethiopian government has imposed a media blackout in Tigray, making accurate information difficult to gather, but rumors have circulated of intentional starvation and other war crimes.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.