Airstrikes abort humanitarian flight into Mekelle of Ethiopia: UN

Oct 23, 2021

Airstrikes abort humanitarian flight into Mekelle of Ethiopia: UN

United Nations Oct 23: The United Nations is assessing humanitarian air operations into Mekelle of Ethiopia, following airstrikes forcing the mid-air turn-around of a UN passenger flight into the Tigrayan capital on Friday, a UN official said.
Eleven passengers were aboard the flight, said Gemma Connell of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). No injuries were reported.
"A UN humanitarian flight that departed Addis Ababa this (Friday) morning was forced to turn back in the midst of its flight after air strikes began in Mekelle," she said, adding that the government was informed of that flight before it took off.
The incident raised questions about whether UN humanitarian flights will operate from the Ethiopian capital into the Tigrayan capital.
"That is a matter that we're going to have to look at over the course of the coming hours," Connell said. "We're still figuring out the exact details of what occurred today (Friday)."
"Until we have those details figured out and until we're able to ensure that we are able to move forward with the guarantees that we need to be able to fly our teams safely ... we will have to look at what we're able to do," she said. "We will be assessing all of this in the coming hours as more of the details come to light and as we're able to figure out what is feasible."
Connell noted that the airstrikes and the escalation of the conflict had significant consequences on humanitarian operations in Tigray.
"We've not had a single truck -- as well as the challenge of the flights -- that's been able to get into Tigray since Oct. 18," she said.
The flights are operated by the World Food Programme's UN Humanitarian Air Service and carry personnel from the United Nations and its partner relief agencies.
Connell said as far as she knew, it was the first such air operation forced to abort because of airstrikes.
She heads OCHA's regional office for Southern and Eastern Africa, which covers Ethiopia, and briefed reporters at UN headquarters in New York from her base in Nairobi by teleconference.
Ethiopia began airstrikes in and around Mekelle earlier this week. The government said they are aiming at military targets. However, airstrikes killed three children and injured 10 civilians in and around Mekelle earlier in the week.
Source: Xinhua