NAIROBI, Aug 26 (Reuters) – At least seven people were killed in an airstrike in the capital of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region on Friday, medical officials there said, the first such attack since a four-month ceasefire ended this week.

Officials said the dead included three children but a federal government spokesman denied civilian casualties.

The airstrike on Mekele came two days after fighting resumed between the national government and Tigrean forces on the border between the Tigray and Amhara regions and undermined the ceasefire.

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Tigrai Television, which is controlled by regional authorities, blamed the federal government for the strike. No other military aircraft operate in Ethiopian airspace.

The Ethiopian government later urged residents of Tigray to stay away from military facilities and said it intended to “take action to target military forces”.

Eider Hospital chief executive Kybrom Gebreselassie said on Twitter that the hospital had four dead and nine wounded, including two children.

He said that children’s playground was affected by this strike. Reuters could not independently verify his account. It was not clear if there were any military facilities nearby.

Federal government spokesman Legese Tulu said reports of civilian deaths were a “false and fabricated drama” and accused Tigrayan authorities of “body bag dumping”.

He denied that the government strikes hit civilian facilities and said they only targeted military sites.

Footage published by Tigrai TV showed a building with the roof blown off, a jumble of slides and emergency workers carrying stretchers past a damaged pink wall painted with a large butterfly.

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Fasika Amdeslasi, a surgeon at Ider Hospital, said a colleague at Mekele Hospital told him they had received three more bodies – a mother and her child and another unidentified person – bringing the total number of dead to seven.

The bodies brought to Eider included a boy of about 10 years, two women and a young teenager, he said.

“Their bodies were torn apart,” he told Reuters. “I have seen their dead bodies myself.”

The surgeon said restrictions on medical supplies entering Tigray meant hospitals were stocked with intravenous fluids, antibiotics and painkillers.

Ethiopia’s health minister Lia Tadesse did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the shortage.

A humanitarian source in Mekele confirmed hearing explosions and anti-aircraft gunfire in the city on Friday.

Civilians have been killed in government airstrikes in the past, investigators said. In January, a drone attack on a camp for displaced people in Dedebit killed 56 people and wounded 30, including children, according to witnesses. The government did not respond to a request for comment.

The war broke out in Tigray in November 2020 and spread to the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara a year ago. Last November, Tigrayan forces marched on Addis Ababa but were driven back by a government offensive.

A ceasefire was announced in March after both sides fought a stalemate, and the government declared a humanitarian ceasefire, allowing much-needed food aid to the region.

As the feud continued this week, the two accused each other.

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Reports by Nairobi Newsroom; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Angus McSwan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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