Rockets target Eritrea as Ethiopia leader resists calls for dialogue

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) – Eritrea’s capital came under fire from Ethiopia’s breakaway Tigray region Friday, raising fears that Ethiopia’s internal conflict could spread as leader Abiy Ahmed resisted calls for dialogue.

For more than three weeks now, Ethiopia and Tigray have engaged in fierce fighting that the In-ternational Crisis Group said on Friday had left thousands dead “including many civilians as well as security forces”.

On Friday night, at least one rocket fired from the northern Tigray region targeted neighbouring Eritrea, four regional diplomats told AFP.

Abiy, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, announced on Thursday a “third and final phase” in his campaign against leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Global concern remains centred on the half a million residents of Mekele, Tigray’s regional capital, which the army said it has encircled ahead of the threatened attack.

World leaders and human rights groups have warned such a strike could violate rules of war and were calling for urgent mediation.

Pope Francis was among those worried about the intensifying fighting, growing loss of life and displacement, Vatican media head Matteo Bruni said on Friday.

Abiy announced military operations in Tigray on November 4 after months of friction between his government and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before Abiy took office in 2018.

The prime minister has refused to negotiate with the TPLF and dismissed calls for dialogue as “interference” in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.

Tigray people who fled the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, gather in their shelters at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan. PHOTO: AP