Rockets fired at Eritrea’s capital in escalation of Ethiopia conflict

Refugees from the Tigray region of Ethiopia region wait to register at the UNCHR center at Hamdayet, Sudan on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. Ethiopia’s defiant Tigray regional government has fired rockets at two airports in the neighboring Amhara region as a deadly conflict threatens to spread into other parts of Africa’s second-most populous country. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)
Refugees from the Tigray region of Ethiopia arrive to register at the UNHCR centre at Hamdayet, Sudan Credit: AP/Press Association Images

Rockets were fired at Eritrea’s capital as the deadly fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region spilled across an international border.

At least three rockets appeared to be aimed at the airport in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, hours after the Tigray regional government warned it might attack.

It has accused Eritrea of attacking it at the invitation of Ethiopia’s federal government since the conflict in northern Ethiopia erupted on November 4.

The deadly fighting that erupted in the northern Tigray region has reportedly killed hundreds on both sides, sent more than 17,000 refugees fleeing into neighbouring Sudan and raised international alarm about a possible civil war at the heart of the Horn of Africa.

Map locates the Tigray area Credit: FDuckett/AP

The leader of the Tigray region confirmed firing missiles at Eritrea’s capital, and threatened more, saying: “We will take any legitimate military target and we will fire.”

Regional president Debretsion Gebremichael would not say how many missiles were fired at the city of Asmara but said it was the only city in Eritrea that was targeted.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) earlier said in a statement on Tigray TV that such strikes would continue “unless the attacks against us stop”.

Ethiopia’s federal government said airports in Gondar and Bahir Dar were damaged in strikes late on Friday, asserting that Tigray regional forces were “repairing and utilising the last of the weaponry within its arsenals”.

A young refugee from the Tigray region of Ethiopia waits to register at the UNCHR center at Hamdayet, Sudan. Credit: AP

On Saturday, the TPLF said it fired rockets at another part of Ethiopia, hitting two airports in the Amhara region.

Communications and transport links with the Tigray region remain severed, making it difficult to verify claims on both sides.

Desperate families cannot reach relatives, and the United Nations and other humanitarian organisations are warning of disaster as food, fuel and other supplies run short for millions of people.

“The military escalation in Ethiopia is risking the stability of the whole country and wider region,” the European Union’s commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, tweeted.

“Should this endure, a full-blown humanitarian crisis is imminent. I am calling for unimpeded humanitarian access to Tigray.”