The United Nations has condemned an air raid that killed 17 civilians including three children in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.
During the Friday raid, a kindergarten and children's playground in the regional capital Mekele were hit.
"UNICEF strongly condemns the air strike in Mekelle,” UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell said on Twitter on Friday.
“The strike hit a kindergarten, killing several children, and injuring others. UNICEF calls on all parties to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities,” she added.
Tigray Television, which is controlled by the regional authorities, quoted witnesses as saying that a kindergarten called Red Kids Paradise was hit during the aerial bombarding and aired graphic images.
Addis Ababa denied the allegations, saying the air force only targeted military sites of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) who are fighting government forces.
EU and UK Officials
The European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, similarly condemned the strike, which he said "resulted in the death of civilians.
Lenarcic said, "civilians are not a target" and urged the two warring parties to engage in peace talks and to allow humanitarian aid reach to those in need.
"Reports of air strikes in Tigray resulting in civilian casualties are appalling. All parties must respect international humanitarian law and make the protection of civilians their priority," UK Africa Minister Vicky Ford tweeted.
This is the first aerial attack on Mekelle since Tigrayan and government forces agreed ceasefire five months ago.
Tigrayan officials called the air strike “a heartless, sadistic” assault which revealed the "true colours" of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government.
"While the international community is calling on both parties to de-escalate the fighting, Abiy Ahmed has chosen to send his Air Force to attack civilians in Mekelle, this time around a kindergarten," said the Tigray government external affairs office in a statement it issued shortly after the attack.
"With the regime’s large-scale offensive in its third day and disarray, Abiy has reverted to his daily routine: targeting civilians. In a way, he is doing with bombs what he has been doing to our people through siege-starvation. While the likes of WFP Chief and USAID are decrying a fictitious theft of fuel"
Stop "Coddling" Abiy
The statement further said some influential members of the international community who have been coddling this "sadistic regime" have fallen for the Ethiopia government's "deceptive rhetoric as an agent of peace"
Tigray leaders urged the international community to stop "coddling Abiy" putting pressure on the regime and nudge into bona fide negotiations.
After the Friday attack, Ethiopia has urged people in Tigray to stay away from TPLF facilities, hinting to carry out more air strikes.
Fighting between Tigray and government forces resumed on Wednesday in northern Ethiopia, ending a five-month truce. Both sides blamed each other for the resumption of hostilities.