Rockets ‘fired from Ethiopia’s Tigray area’ hit Eritrea capital | Eritrea

Missiles fired by Ethiopia have struck the capital of neighboring Eritrea, diplomats and witnesses said, as the deadly fighting between Ethiopian government forces and rebel forces in the north of the country appeared to have crossed international borders.

At least three rockets were fired in Asmara on Saturday evening, five diplomats told Reuters.

At least two of them made it to the city’s airport, three diplomats said.

Radio Erena, a Paris-based diaspora broadcaster that agrees with the Eritrean opposition, said residents of Asmara reported “a total of four explosions”.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, who reports from the city of Gondar in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, said one of the rockets fired in Asmara was targeting a building that houses the Eritrean Ministry of Information and a range of local media outlets.

“Eyewitnesses tell us that the missile aimed at the Ministry of Information missed its mark and fell outside the building,” he said.

“We have no word about victims. What we do know, however, is that this is a tremendous escalation in the conflict that has hitherto been confined to the borders of Ethiopia and the Tigray region in particular. Now it has crossed international borders and could bring Eritrea into conflict. “

For most of the communications in Tigray and Eritrea, officials on both sides could not be reached and it was not immediately clear where the rockets in Tigray were being fired from or what damage they were causing.

The attacks on Saturday came hours after Tigray’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), threatened to attack Eritrean targets. The TPLF, which once dominated the ruling coalition of Ethiopia, had previously accused Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of seeking military assistance from Eritrea.

“We are going to launch a missile attack to thwart any military movement in Asmara and Massawa,” Getachew Reda, the TPLF spokesman, told a local television station. Massawa is an Eritrean port on the Red Sea.

Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace agreement two years ago, but President Isaias Afwerki’s government in Asmara remains hostile to the Tigray leadership after its role in a devastating war between 1998 and 2000.

Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed denied sending troops to Ethiopia on Tuesday and told Reuters: “We are not part of the conflict.”

Abiy launched a military campaign against Tigray’s leaders last week after accusing them of attacking federal forces in the northern region on the Eritrea-Sudan border.

A senior TPLF official appeared on Saturday to confirm this claim. Sekoutoure Getachew said in a video discussion that pre-emptive self-defense strikes have been carried out against the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Army in what is known as an “internationally known practice”.

The fighting has killed hundreds of people on both sides, thousands of civilians fled to Sudan, and fears that they could destabilize other parts of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa region.

Several refugees who arrived in the Sudanese border town of Hamdayat told Reuters that their areas in Ethiopia had been shelled from Eritrea.

“We were shot at by artillery volleys across the Eritrean border,” said Naksiam Guru, a 22-year-old refugee who lives near the border. “I saw people die in the streets.”

There is a camp for 8,000 refugees in Hamdayat. Several hundred arrived on Saturday morning, some were crossing a border river by boat, while others were swimming or wading through the water.

The strikes in Eritrea took place on the same day that the TPLF called for rocket strikes at two airports in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. The TPLF said the attacks were in retaliation for government air strikes against their region.

“Last night we did serious damage to the military components at Gondar and Bahir Dar airports,” Getachew, the TPLF spokesman, said in a statement on Saturday referring to the affected cities.

“As long as the attacks on the people of Tigray do not stop, the attacks will intensify,” he added.

Abiy said government fighter jets bombed military targets in Tigray, including weapon depots and equipment controlled by Tigray forces. The government says its military operations are aimed at restoring the rule of law in the mountain state of five million people.

The Amhara government said Gondar airport was hit while another missile aimed at Bahir Dar airport missed its target. The federal government acknowledged that “airport areas have been damaged,” adding that a doctor said two soldiers were killed and up to 15 injured.

“The TPLF junta is using the last weapons in its arsenals,” wrote the federal government’s emergency task force on Twitter.

As the fighting intensifies, fear of ethnic attack increases.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, appointed by the government but independent, said it was sending a team of investigators to the Tigray city of Mai Kadra to investigate reports of mass murders.

Amnesty International announced Thursday that numerous civilians were stabbed and hacked to death in the area on November 9, citing pictures and witnesses. It was said to have been unable to independently confirm who was responsible, but witnesses had accused fighters who were loyal to Tigray’s leaders.

The Tigray state government has denied any involvement by TPLF members or the state’s special police in “this most tragic event.”

The Justice Commission said in a statement that it would investigate all allegations of human rights violations in the conflict.

“In this part of the world, due to the socio-economic situation, the presence of multiple borders and different ethnic groups, any war is an instant humanitarian crisis,” said William Lawrence, professor of political science at George Washington University in the United States.

“You have a lot of ethnic hostility and grievances. Once the murders and atrocities begin, it can spread to other areas pretty quickly unless it is contained and de-escalated, ”he told Al Jazeera.

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