Ethiopia has declared “an indefinite humanitarian truce effective immediately” in its northern Tigray region, halting its 16-month war with rebel forces there.
The Government Communication Service said in a statement that there is a need to expedite the provision of humanitarian aid to people in need in Tigray, which has a population of 5.5 million.
With utmost priority to alleviating the plight of those affected by the conflict, the statement said the government is committed to exerting maximum effort to facilitate the free flow of emergency humanitarian aid into Tigray.
Ethiopia called on the donor community to redouble its generous contributions to alleviate the situation and reiterated its commitment to working in collaboration with relevant organizations to expedite the provision of humanitarian assistance to those in need.
Northern Ethiopia has been rocked by armed conflict since November 2020, with government forces fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in a war that has claimed thousands of lives, with the UN accusing both sides of targeting civilians.
The statement called on “the other side,” referring to the TPLF, to reciprocate the declaration of the humanitarian truce just declared.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a past statement said the government of Ethiopia is blocking aid to the rebellious Tigray region
The government statement did not comment on a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) released Thursday by its regional office in Kenya’s capital Nairobi accusing Ethiopian government forces of calling for an airstrike on a school compound hosting thousands of displaced people in northwestern Tigray.
HRW said the Ethiopian government had committed a war crime with the airstrike on Jan. 7 this year, which killed at least 57 civilians and wounded more than 42 others.
It pointed out that a drone dropped three bombs on the compound in the town of Dedebit.
Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement, said that “the Ethiopian drone struck the Dedebit school compound three times, killing and maiming displaced Tigrayans, mainly older people, women, and children, as they slept in plastic-sheeted tents and a school building.”
“Using guided bombs without evidence of any military target indicates that this was an apparent war crime,” she added.
Citing the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, HRW said that between Nov. 22 and Feb. 28, the UN Human Rights Office had documented that 304 people died and 373 were injured from aerial attacks in Tigray – including two strikes in the town of Alamata in December and a strike in January that hit the Mai-Aini refugee camp hosting Eritrean refugees – and to a lesser extent in the Afar region.
HRW has recommended that the Ethiopian government should credibly and impartially investigate the attack on Dedebit and fairly prosecute those found responsible for war crimes. It said it should also facilitate an independent investigation of the attack by impartial international monitors and make public the findings into the harm that drone strikes have caused to civilians throughout the conflict, including disaggregated data on civilian harm.
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