UN slams airstrike in Ethiopia that ‘hit kindergarten’, killing 2 children, 2 others

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The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF has denounced an airstrike that “hit a kindergarten” in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, leaving at least four people, including two children dead.

In a statement published Saturday, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said that the agency  “strongly condemns” the air strike that took place a day before in Mekele, the capital of the northern Tigray region.

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Russell stressed that the children of Ethiopia are at risk once again amid the escalating violence and called all parties to “agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities.

“Yet again, an escalation of violence in northern Ethiopia has caused children to pay the heaviest price. For almost two years, children and their families in the region have endured the agony of this conflict. It must end,” her statement said. 

Friday’s strike came days after fighting between government forces and Tigrayan fighters resumed in the region’s southern border. Putting an end to a five-month truce.

Until the strike on Friday, fighting was mostly taking place near Tigray’s southeastern border.

Government forces accused of targeting civilian infrastructure

The Ethiopian air force has been accused of hitting the residential area in which the kindergarten was situated, claims the government denied.

Addis Ababa said it was “targeting only military sites” and accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) —  the militia that is at the heart of the bloody conflict and controls the region —  of staging civilian deaths.Play Video1:49 min

Fighting flares up in Ethiopia after five-month lull

Tigray Television, ​​controlled by the regional authorities, quoted witnesses as saying that a kindergarten called Red Kids Paradise was hit during the raid and aired graphic images following the attack.

The broadcaster claimed that seven civilians, among them three children, were killed in the attack.

In November 2020, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a government offensive in Tigray, in response to an attack on a military base.

A battle of attrition began with fighting spreading to the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara a year ago.

In November last year, Tigrayan forces marched towards Addis Ababa, but were pushed back by another government offensive.

A ceasefire was announced in March, with the government declaring a humanitarian truce.

Fighting in Tigray has killed thousands of civilians and displaced millions.

The conflict has also pushed parts of the region into famine conditions.

dvv/kb (AFP, AP, Reuters)