Ethiopian forces shelled heavily populated areas in the first weeks of the conflict in the Tigray region, killing at least 83 civilians and displacing thousands, Human Rights Watch has said. Artillery attacks by forces backing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, “struck homes, hospitals, schools and markets”, according to the report, which focuses on the regional capital Mekelle and the towns of Shire and Humera. Abiy announced military operations against the leadership of Tigray’s governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), in early November, saying this was in response to TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps. He declared victory after pro-government troops took Mekelle in late November, though the TPLF promised to fight on. Aid workers say persistent insecurity has hampered the delivery of badly-needed humanitarian assistance. Abiy has previously said the military acted with special care for civilian lives, telling legislators in late November that no civilians were killed as his forces entered Tigray’s cities. Much of Tigray remains inaccessible to aid workers and the media, making it difficult to get a full picture of the toll of the fighting and current conditions on the ground.
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