It has been nearly two years since Ethiopia and Eritrea began waging a genocidal war against the seven million people of Tigray. The 23 months since the beginning of the war have brought an unimaginable level of human suffering and deeply destabilized not only Ethiopia but the larger Horn of Africa region. The genocidal war on Tigray is the deadliest ongoing conflict in the world and has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Conservative estimates suggest that over 500,000 Tigrayans have perished in the last 23 months. During their occupation of large swaths of Tigrayan territory, Ethiopia, Eritrean and Amhara forces shelled and bombed cities and rural civilian settlements, killing scores. Moreover, hundreds of massacres were carried out against Tigrayan civilians, some of which have been captured on video. In recent months, the majority of the fatalities have been caused by the Ethiopian government’s inhumane siege. Since the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) liberated many areas of Tigray in June 2021, the Ethiopian government has maintained a deadly siege and de-facto humanitarian blockade, preventing civilian access to vital services like banking, telecommunications, and transportation. Tigrayans cannot withdraw and use their own money from banks and are disconnected from the outside world. With very few exceptions, flights, buses, and cars are prohibited from traveling into or out of the region. For nearly two years, a region of seven million people has been effectively cut off from the world while its citizens face a genocidal siege from all sides.

Among the crimes committed since November 2020 are wholesale destruction, looting, aerial attacks targeting civilians, torture, unlawful detention, extrajudicial killings, massacres, weaponized Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), and weaponizing humanitarian aid and access. Most recently, on August 26, 2022, the Ethiopian government bombed a residential area in Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, hitting a kindergarten and causing dozens of casualties. This airstrike was followed by the bombing of other residential areas and the surrounding area of Mekelle General Hospital on the night of August 30. The Ethiopian government continues to act with impunity, killing civilians. Airstrikes are likely to continue as the Ethiopian government and its allies from the Amhara region and Eritrea launched an offensive on Tigray on four separate fronts on September 1, 2022. The latest aerial attack occurred on September 14, 2022, and killed ten civilians. The resumption of full-scale war comes as the international community failed to facilitate peace negotiations and largely ignored the signs of impending war.

This siege also extends to and significantly affects efforts to deliver lifesaving food and medical aid to the people of Tigray. Since June 2021, a tiny proportion of the humanitarian assistance necessary to avoid mass deaths in Tigray has been allowed to enter the region. By all estimates, nearly a million people in Tigray live in famine conditions, while over five million people face severe food insecurity. Food insecurity is especially deadly for vulnerable populations, including children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Malnutrition rates among these groups, especially children and pregnant and lactating women, have reached as high as 70%, a catastrophic level. In addition to restricting the supply of vital food aid, the Ethiopian government’s deadly siege has depleted Tigray’s medical supplies. Due to deliberate attacks, the region’s health infrastructure has completely collapsed, leaving millions of people without healthcare. Hospitals in the region have run out of supplies and cannot provide care for patients with diabetes, cancer, or the tens of thousands of women and girls who have been victims of weaponized Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) perpetrated by Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces. Additionally, the Ethiopian government’s inhumane siege is especially catastrophic for the over two million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) throughout Tigray.

In late August 2022, after a brief period of hope surrounding negotiations between the Ethiopian and Tigrayan governments, military engagements intensified between allied Ethiopian and Eritrean forces and Tigrayan forces. It is vital to note that hostilities against Tigray have not stopped in their entirety since November 2020. Despite ostensibly declaring a ceasefire in June 2021, the Ethiopian government and its allies have been engaging with Tigrayan forces in the areas around Tigray’s borders. Moreover, Eritrean and Amhara troops have established and maintained control over large swaths of Tigrayan territory in Western Tigray and occupied lands inhabited by Tigray’s minorities–the Irob and Kunama. However, there was a lull in direct military engagements during the summer of 2022, facilitated in part by the Tigray government expressing its desire for negotiations. But in August and September 2022, Ethiopian and Eritrean forces mobilized tens of thousands of soldiers, who waged numerous attacks on Tigrayan soil. Eritrean forces have been ruthless in their attacks, bombing and shelling entire towns and killing countless civilians. Areas along the Eritrean border have borne the brunt of these indiscriminate attacks, resulting in devastating casualties and a fresh wave of displacements. Videos and pictures emerging from the targeted border region show entire neighborhoods flattened by air raids and the bodies of victims being recovered from the ruins.

The international community’s response to these most recent deadly developments has been extremely muted, which will only embolden the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments to continue their indiscriminate war crimes against civilians and violations of international law. Members of the international community have failed to effectively respond to the deliberate and coordinated genocidal efforts of the Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara governments, abrogating their duty under the law and overseeing continued death and destruction.