Rebels take over UN Heritage site

Rebels from Ethiopia’s war-hit Tigray region have taken over a UN Heritage Site in Lalibela town. The rebels took control of Lalibela town on Thursday; in the neighboring Amhara region.

Lalibela famed for its 12th-century rock-hewn churches is known as a holy site for millions of Orthodox Christians.

This came as a senior Amhara official said the TPLF rebels were pushing “deep” into Amhara territory and hinted at possible retaliation.

“I believe now, enough is enough. Because the TPLF is no more in Tigray. TPLF is moving deep into Amhara territories,” said Amhara deputy governor Fanta Mandefro, adding that “we need to defend our people.”

The Northern Tigray region has been wracked by fighting since last November. The fighting is spreading into Amhara and Afar, another region bordering Tigray.

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The town fell without a fight, multiple residents said on Thursday.

“They came in the afternoon, and there was not any fighting. There were no security forces around. The TPLF forces are in the town now,” one resident said.

“Most of the people are leaving the town to the remote areas,” a third resident said, adding that he was hiding in his home with his family.

The rebel’s push into the neighboring regions has elicited worldwide condemnation, with the UN reiterating calls to end hostilities.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, told a press conference Thursday that more than 300,000 people had been displaced by recent fighting in Amhara and Afar.

Meanwhile, world leaders are urging the TPLF to commit to a ceasefire to facilitate aid delivery in Tigray. UN estimates fighting has pushed 400,000 people into famine-like conditions.

The United States urged the rebels to protect the UN heritage site with State Department spokesperson Ned Price also renewing calls for an end to the violence.

A UN spokesperson said on Thursday that up to 175 aid trucks carrying humanitarian aid had arrived in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region.

The spokesperson called for a political solution to the conflict in Tigray as fighting has spilled into Afar.

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