ADDIS ABABA, July 7 (Reuters) - Ethiopia said on Wednesday that it had granted permission for humanitarian flights to its northern Tigray region, amid international concern that aid is not reaching people facing famine since Tigrayan forces seized the region's capital last week.
Ethiopia's government has been battling the Tigray People's Liberation Front since November and thousands of civilians and an unknown number of combatants have since been killed.
Last week, government forces withdrew from the Tigrayan capital Mekelle, a major shift in the conflict. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government declared a unilateral humanitarian ceasefire and said its soldiers left Mekelle to tend to greater security threats elsewhere.
"Since Monday July 5, 2021, the Federal government has granted flight permission for all interested parties to provide humanitarian services in Tigray region," authorities said on Twitter.
The United Nations said on Friday shortages of food had worsened dramatically over the past two weeks and some 400,000 people in Tigray were now estimated to be in famine, with another 1.8 million on the brink of famine.
Also on Friday, the government denied blocking humanitarian aid to Tigray and said it was rebuilding infrastructure amid accusations it is using hunger as a weapon.
It was not immediately possible to reach the TPLF or any of the Tigray region's leaders for comment, nor was it possible to confirm whether humanitarian flights had reached Mekelle since Monday. Last week, a spokesperson for the TPLF condemned the government’s shutdown of services, including air transport, as a continued act of war.
Pressure is building on both sides to end hostilities so that aid can reach the starving. The commander of the Tigrayan forces on Tuesday called for a negotiated ceasefire with the government and a political solution, saying the government could not win the war. (Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; writing by Omar Mohammed; editing by Maggie Fick and Nick Macfie)