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09/01/2021 News and Commentaries – Tigray War

Ethiopian women raped in Mekelle, says soldier. Here is an unabridged translation of the soldier’s speech. 

Why are women being raped at this time in the city of Mekelle? This is not a war time. If it were war-time it may be expected as it is not manageable. But we are here reclaiming peace and order. With local and federal police on duty and several staffs available, how come another incident happened today after the one that was reported last night?

Satellite Images Show Ethiopia Carnage as Conflict Continues. Bloomber, Politics.

Satellite images show the destruction of United Nations’ facilities, a health-care unit, a high school and houses at two camps [Hitsats and the Shimelba] sheltering Eritrean refugees in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, belying government claims that the conflict in the dissident region is largely over.

“Recent satellite imagery indicates that structures in both camps are being intentionally targeted. The systematic and widespread fires are consistent with an intentional campaign to deny the use of the camp.” said a UK based analyst, Isaac Baker.

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General 08.01.2021

We, along with our partners, have been able to access areas that have been previously inaccessible. Localized fighting and insecurity continues, with fighting reported in rural areas and around Mekelle, Shiraro and Shire, in the Tigray province.

Access to most parts of north-western, eastern and central Tigray remains constrained due to the ongoing insecurity and bureaucratic hurdles, and two of the four refugee camps in the region (Hitsats and Shimelba) are still not accessible.

… We estimate that 2.3 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Tigray, including 1.3 million additional people due to the conflict and over 950,000 people already there, including refugees.

A glimpse into the health impact of Tigray war, OCHA, 08.01.2021

Only 5 out of 40 hospitals in Tigray are physically accessible, while four additional hospitals are reachable through mobile network. Apart from those in Mekelle, the remaining hospitals are looted and many reportedly destroyed, which, in addition to the insecure environment and non-payment of salaries, has halted basic health services and displaced staff.

The interruption of COVID-19 surveillance and control activities for over a month in the region, coupled with mass displacements and overcrowded conditions in displacement setting is feared to have facilitated massive community transmission of the pandemic.

Full and unrestricted humanitarian access must be granted. EU

The top 10 crises the world should be watching in 2021. The International Rescue Committee’s annual Emergency Watchlist.

War Crimes of Eritrean Troops in Tigray, reported by Jan Nyssen, full professor of geography at Ghent University (Belgium). Here is an excerpt from the report on some of the incidents observed by eyewitnesses in and around Adigrat:

  • On 18 November, Eritrean soldiers killed 59 civilians inside their houses in the border town of Zalambessa;
  • On 24 November, Eritrean soldiers drove a pick-up truck with machine guns through the central street of Adigrat and shot indiscriminately at shops, private residences, and passers-by. Several civilians were reportedly killed and wounded, including women and children;
  • On 25 November, a group of 8 – 15 citizens (according to different witnesses) stood guard at the Addis Pharmaceutical Factory in Adigrat when they were handcuffed and executed by Eritrean soldiers;
  • On 25 November, Eritrean soldiers shot 8 civilians inside their houses in the town of Hawzen.
  • On 30 November, Eritrean troops killed more than 80 people in the Church compound of Maryam Dengelat, situated 5 kilometres to SW of Idaga Hamus;
  • Staff of Dashen Brewery in Gondar informed us that their Branch Manager in Adigrat, ayte11 Isayas Asgedom, was also murdered that day at Maryam Dengelat, together with his family;
  • Around 2 – 12 December, 24 men in the village of Abraha Atsbaha were ordered by Eritrean troops to dig graves for fallen soldiers. When the men had finished, they were executed by Eritrean soldiers;
  • Around 1 – 14 December, 13 boys aged 12 – 15 years old from the village of Tokot near Idaga Hamus were ordered by Eritrean troops to load looted materials onto a truck. When they had finished, the 13 boys were shot dead by the Eritrean soldiers.
  • Around 12 – 14 December, Eritrean troops looted the Negash mosque, the most ancient centre of Islam outside Arabia, which has also been shelled. 81 (mostly Orthodox Christian) villagers were killed while trying to protect the holy site from looting;
  • Wukro has been heavily damaged mainly by organised looting, including St Mary College and the Catholic mission; the Sheba Leather Factory has been destroyed and local youth protecting the place killed in big numbers; and
  • Around 17 – 20 December, 750 inhabitants of the town of Aksum were killed by Eritrean troops when they tried to prevent them from looting the Maryam Tsion Church in the town.

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International Crisis Group. 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2021.