Thousands of Refugees from Ethiopia’s Tigray Region Fleeing Violence

The border town of Hamdayat, Sudan, is now home to thousands of refugees from Ethiopia’s Tigray region fleeing violence. Among the estimated 8,000 who have arrived in recent days are the parents of seven-month-old twins born prematurely, laying on a bed in a makeshift shelter. The family was forced to leave the hospital in Tigray where they were getting medical care.“They were in incubators but when the city was bombed, we ran away and came here,” their father Burhano Qobrfay told Reuters at the village located in eastern Kassala state. “Their mother doesn’t have much milk. We are using flour and mixing it to feed them. That is not recommended by doctors. Our children are dying right before our eyes.”The more than week-long conflict in Ethiopia between the federal government and the regional ruling party, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has forced more than 20,000 people to flee to Sudan, according to the Ethiopians who fled the ongoing fighting in Tigray region prepare to cross the Setit River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border in Hamdait village in eastern Kassala state, Sudan, Nov. 14, 2020.The U.N. and local agencies said they are helping people who are fleeing the conflict.“If it wasn’t for Sudan, many would be dead,” Qobrou Qonzou,  a refugee seeking shelter in the border town of al-Fashqa told reporters. “Where do we go? If we go to Eritrea, they will slaughter us. If we go to Gonder, they will slaughter us. Where would we go if it wasn’t for Sudan?”The violence escalated last week after fighters loyal to the TPLF allegedly attacked a federal government position in what the government called an attempt to loot weapons and equipment. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responded by ordering airstrikes and sending in troops.The Ethiopian federal government says its onslaught is a limited military action against some members of the TPLF. The TPLF says this is a war against Tigray.FILE – People walk in front of the head office of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the ruling party in the region, in the city of Mekele, northern Ethiopia, Sept. 6, 2020.Mass killings targeted civiliansAlthough military clashes, including aerial bombardments, have received most of the media attention, there are reports of attacks directed against civilians. In Mai-Kadra, Ethiopia, Amnesty International said it has documented a mass killing of hundreds of civilians by attackers wielding knives, axes and machetes. Amnesty International says those killed were not involved in the military operations.“They were all, indeed, men of working age, and we were told by eyewitnesses that these were day laborers who were not involved in the ongoing military offensive,” Sam Dubberley of Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Team told VOA in a Skype interview. “We saw scores of bodies in the videos and we’ve been told there were hundreds of people killed in this attack.”EXCLUSIVE: @amnesty investigation reveals evidence that scores of civilians were killed in #Maikadra massacre in Ethiopia’s Tigray state. https://t.co/CDxxJsXNS5
— amnestypress (@amnestypress) November 12, 2020The Ethiopian government has blamed the attack on the TPLF, which has denied involvement. The regional ruling party said the allegations are part of a continuing effort to demonize Tigrayan people.“The false allegations of TPLF’s involvement in these killings are being proliferated with the intent to incite hatred towards Tigrayans in Ethiopia,” the political party said on its official Facebook page. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights said the Amnesty report has not been verified. During a press briefing in Geneva on Friday, the commissioner’s spokesperson, Rupert Colville, called for a full inquiry to determine what happened.🇪🇹 #Ethiopia: Amid emerging reports of mass killings in the town of Mai-Kadra, @mbachelet expresses increasing alarm at rapidly deteriorating situation in #Tigray: “I strongly urge both sides to realize that there will be no winner in such a situation” 👉 https://t.co/vClDLmDjYWpic.twitter.com/zwSNvYJo0U
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) Members of the Amhara Special Force return to the Dansha Mechanized 5th division military base after fighting against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, in Danasha, Amhara region near a border with Tigray, Ethiopia, Nov. 9, 2020.Getachew Reda, the Tigray Central Command spokesperson, said in order to stop the military incursion, there are no alternatives left but to strike strategic targets in Ethiopia and Eritrea.“We will strike critical military and city infrastructures as targets,” he said on a television show speaking in Amharic before the reported missile strikes in Eritrea’s capital.Meanwhile, the number of those seeking refuge in Sudan is growing rapidly.Refugees from the Tigray region of Ethiopia wait to register at the UNCHR center at Hamdayet, Sudan, Nov. 14, 2020.A woman from the Qimant ethnic group who fled to Sudan said she and other women fled with nothing but children clinging to their backs.“They (the children) don’t have anything to drink and eat. All of us are suffering,” she told AFP while sheltering in Gedaref State, Sudan. “We don’t have clothes. We have borrowed from our neighbors to wear the clothes we have. We ask the Tigray (regional government) and governments around the world to raise their heads and look at us.”Fabrik Tessafay, a Tigrayan refugee who is one of the thousands fleeing conflict and sheltering in Hamdayat, told the Associated Press: “war is meaningless, even if the central government is cooperating with the Eritrean government and with the Amhara region, together they fight or kill, specifically the Tigray people.” 

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