Civilian Causalities In Ethiopian Airstrikes

On October 18th, three children were killed, and 10 other civilians were injured in two airstrikes in Ethiopia. The airstrikes were carried out by Ethiopia’s government to destroy a communication facility run by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray. The TPLF is a political party based out of the region of Tigray in Ethiopia, and considered by the Ethiopian government to be a terrorist organization. The Ethiopian government initially denied the airstrikes; however, they later took responsibility for them, saying they were successful in their goal. The government also said the airstrikes were carried out as a way to prevent civilian causalities. Despite this claim, the goal was not achieved. Given that one of the airstrikes hit an area very close to a busy market, the level of effort made to avoid civilian causalities is questionable.

A spokesperson from the TPLF said that the airstrikes were intended to harm civilians, as opposed to the government claiming the opposite. Regardless of the intention, the government failed to avoid civilian harm and worsened the levels of peace and stability in an already fragile region of the country. Jens Laerke, the spokesperson for the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has said that the “intensification of the conflict is very alarming.” Similarly, António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN, shared his concerns about the escalation of conflict. These fears are rooted in knowing that this event has the potential to lead to future violence as part of this conflict, from both the government of Ethiopia and the TPLF.

The TPLF was the prior ruling party in Ethiopia, from 1991 to 2018. In 2018, the current Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed was elected. The election took place following concerns about the respect of human rights and democracy under the TPLF administration. The larger crisis that these airstrikes are part of began in November 2020, when Ethiopia’s military took control of Tigray from the TPLF with the use of military power and the assistance of the Eritrean military.

Since then, there has been ongoing conflict in the region of Tigray between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF. Two million people have needed to flee their homes, thousands have died, and an estimated 400,000 are living in famine-like conditions. When attempting to provide humanitarian aid and supplies to Tigray, the UN has faced blockage from attacks by the TPLF and restrictions put in place by the Ethiopian government. More information on this crisis can be found on The Organization for World Peace Crisis Index page, at https://theowp.org/crisis_index/tigray-conflict/.

This event raises concern for the future of the Tigray Conflict in Ethiopia. In a region that is already unstable and in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, these airstrikes signal a step into deeper conflict. Future implications of these airstrikes could involve retaliation from the TPLF, further advances from the Ethiopian government, and further disruptions to the wellbeing of Tigrayans. Given the difficulties in providing aid to the region, this is a large reason for concern, as situations seem to be only getting worse, with limited opportunities to help the civilians caught in the middle.

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