The United Nations (UN) on Friday removed its staff from danger zones in Tigray, hours after a humanitarian aircraft was forced to abort its landing in Mekelle amid continual bombardment by the Ethiopian Airforce.
A UN official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Nation that the World Food Programme plane was cleared for take-off in Addis Ababa but was forced to abandon its landing after fierce aerial raids near the airport in Mekelle.
When the plane was about to land at Mekelle's international Airport, Ethiopian bomber jets arrived and started air raids nearby, the official said.
At this point, the pilot decided to return to Addis Ababa to protect his passengers from harm. But the move meant that crucial humanitarian staff and urgent aid needed in the region was no longer forthcoming.
According to the UN official, the aircraft was carrying a team of UN aid workers.
The Ethiopian Air Force on Friday carried out airstrikes on Mekelle, the fourth day this week that the city has come under bombardment.
The government said that Friday's air raids targeted at training camps used by TPLF.
But TPLF officials said the attacks targeted civilians.
TPLF sources also shared a video showing a large agricultural harvest burning down after the air raids on Friday.
Ethiopia vs aid agencies
The incident comes at a time when Ethiopia is at odds with the UN and other international aid organisations over the Tigray crisis. The PM Abiy Ahmed-led government expelled seven UN officials two weeks ago, accusing them of meddling and taking sides with the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF).
Addis Ababa has repeatedly accused aid workers and organisations of being party to the conflict by shifting humanitarian aid to the Tigrayan rebels and even arming them.
On their part, international aid organisations accuse Ethiopia of deliberately blocking humanitarian aid to Tigray, where 5.2 million people, about 90 per cent of the Tigray population, are in need of emergency assistance.
Earlier this week, the UN announced that it will be slashing by more than half its Tigray presence as an Ethiopian government blockade halts humanitarian aid efforts.
The fragile security situation is also a huge concern for the international aid agencies working in the country.
Since conflict erupted in Tigray last November, 23 aid workers have been killed so far.