Conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region pushes refugees to Sudan
Fighting in the Tigray region began more than two weeks ago when the regional Tigray People's Liberation Front launched an attack on a military base.
The Ethiopian government responded by launching an offensive that has forced more than 35,000 people to flee to neighbouring Sudan.
Rights groups say civilians have been attacked in Tigray and the United Nations says the killings could amount to war crimes.
Al Jazeera's Hiba Morgan reports from Gadarif state, Sudan.
Three weeks have passed since Ethiopia's government sent soldiers into Tigray.
Now Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed has ordered troops to carry out a final assault against the northern region's government - the Tigray People's Liberation Front or TPLF.
The conflict has forced 43,000 people to seek refuge in Sudan.
So what is needed to end the fighting?
Presenter: Imran Khan
Samuel Getachew - Journalist, The Reporter
Ann Fitz-Gerald -Balsillie School of International Affairs
William Davison - International Crisis Group
N.B.: The Ethiopian government declined Inside Story's request for a representative to join the discussion. Amnesty International on Thursday confirmed reports of a "massacre" of civilians in northern Ethiopia's Tigray region. "Scores, and likely hundreds, of people were stabbed or hacked to death in Mai-Kadra town in the South West Zone of Ethiopia's Tigray Region on the night of November 9," the rights group said in a report. Citing witnesses interviewed and "verified" photo, video and satellite imagery, the human rights group said bodies had been "strewn" across the town. Fighting between the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) party and the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been ongoing for a week now. Declining to identify who was responsible, Amnesty did however cite witnesses who alleged that Tigray special police members had used weapons such as knives and machetes, after a local defeat by Ethiopian EDF federal forces.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in a Facebook message Thursday claimed that federal forces had "liberated" the western part of Tigray, a mountainous region comprising six zones and a population of 5 million. Tigray's Debretsion Gebremichael called on the population to defend itself. Tigray TV claimed jets had bombed the Tekese hydroelectric dam, a structure completed in 2009 with Chinese involvement and set in a deep gorge.
Abiy ordered military operations on November 4, accusing the TPLF of attacking federal camps, a claim denied by the party.
United Nations officials on Thursday said Ethiopia, whose capital hosts African Union headquarters, was being urged to enable "immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access to conflict-hit Tigray. But access to the region is restricted, explains journalist Samuel Getachew, who is based in the capital Addis Ababa. "We believe there are more killings because of [what] the people that have moved to Sudan are telling us. And it's just a horrifying incident with too many people dying and many people being affected," he told DW on Friday. "Organizations are complaining they can't even transport basic food and all kinds of stuff. So the impact without us verifying it, we can only guess it's even worse than assumed." Inside Tigray, more than 2 million residents are dependent on humanitarian aid, estimates the UN. Some 11,000 Ethiopians have already sought refuge in neighboring Sudan. Up to 100,000 were expected in Sudan, said the UN refugee agency. Across Ethiopia as a whole, some 15 million people are dependent on humanitarian aid, amid a total population of 112 million. In Ethiopia's Tigray region heavy fighting still continues. 80km away from the Ethiopian border the Um Raquba UN Camp once housed refugees who fled Ethiopia's famine in the 1980s. Now, the camp is expected to house several thousand refugees according to the UN refugee agency. Many more than the original capacity of 6,000. People here are desperate: water food and shelter are scarce - some of them have to sleep on the ground, are struggling to get enough food or medical aid. The new refugees crossing the border to Sudan worry aid groups. A representative said they are unable to respond to a growing influx.
In a field hospital people wait for hours before receiving treatment. It's children who are suffering the most. It's estimated that half of the refugees are children. The United Nations says shortages have become "very critical" in #Ethiopia's embattled #Tigray region as its population of 6 million remains sealed off and its capital is under threat of #attack by Ethiopian forces seeking to arrest the regional leaders.