Two humanitarian workers confirmed the airstrikes days after an offensive launched against Tigray forces, who had been fighting Ethiopian forces for almost a year.
Mekele has not seen fighting since June when Tigray forces overtook large swathes of the region, and Ethiopian troops withdrew. The federal government of Ethiopia has summoned all citizens to defeat the Tigray rebels, who had dominated the government for 27 years until being displaced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad. This began as a political dispute within Africa's second most populous country. It has since killed thousands.
Questions were not immediately answered by spokespersons for the military or the prime minister. A few hours later, the foreign ministry released a statement in which it did not mention the strikes and instead called upon the international community to support Ethiopia's efforts for peace.
Kindeya Gebrehiwot from Mekele said that a bomb was dropped on a busy day at the market. Kindeya, a spokesperson for the Tigray authorities, stated that many people were injured. A second resident spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation. He said that the first airstrike took place just outside the city, and that three children of the same family were killed. According to the resident, at least seven people were injured in the second strike which also severely damaged a hotel.
Tigray militias claim they are trying pressure Ethiopia's government into lifting a deadly blockade placed on the Tigray area since June's dramatic turn in war. Witnesses in Amhara have reported that Tigray fighters committed atrocities on civilians, echoing the atrocities Tigrayans suffered during the war.
Despite pressure from the United Nations and the United States, as well as the European Union, other African countries, the new offensive continues despite the fact that there is no cease-fire, talks or humanitarian access. A month ago , the U.S. threatened to launch a new round targeted sanctions if it didn't take immediate steps towards achieving those goals.
The warring parties have not stopped fighting. The Tigray forces released a statement Sunday stating that there is no chance for peaceful dialogue.
According to the foreign ministry, it is "unreasonable to expect an unrestricted flow humanitarian aid to Tigray while (Tigray forces) are actively attacking neighbouring areas."
In June, the Ethiopian military conducted an airstrike in the vicinity of Mekele. At least 64 civilians died in the attack on a marketplace in Togoga. For hours, soldiers prevented medical teams from reaching victims.