The accounts come after the Telegraph published refugees’ testimonies of indiscriminate artillery fire raining down on the town of Humera from Eritrea’s border a few miles away.
“I saw one lady. She was lying on the ground. She was dead,” a refugee called Yared said, describing how the woman’s two children lay beside her body on the outskirts of Humera.
“One was about seven years old, but he was also dead. They were killed by a bomb. The other one was a baby. He was trying to breastfeed from her.”
The militarised, totalitarian state of about 6m on Ethiopia’s northern border has been on a war footing since the country won its independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
Hundreds of thousands of Eritreans have fled the country’s horrendous military conscription, which often keeps people working in forced labour for decades.
About 100,000 Eritrean refugees were in Tigray at the onset of the war, many of them draft dodgers.
There are widespread reports of Eritrean soldiers raiding these camps, torturing refugees and deporting them back to Eritrea.
The general’s comments have since been echoed by the Mekele’s interim mayor Ataklti Haileselassie.
Appointed shortly after the Ethiopian army’s capture of the Tigrayan regional capital, Mr Ataklti also publicly acknowledged Eritrean troops’ presence on Ethiopian soil.
“But we have been reassured that [the federal government] was working to have them withdraw in the near future,” Mr Ataklti said at a televised community gathering in Mekele which took place shortly after the General’s address.
Eritrea’s dictator Isaias Afewerki has long had a vested interest in seeing the TPLF ousted.
Before Mr Abiy was appointed as Ethiopia’s prime minister in 2018, TPLF officials dominated the government.
In 1998, Eritrea fell out with the then TPLF-led government over disputed territory on Eritrea and Tigray’s border. A horrific war was waged between the two countries until 2000, killing an estimated 70,000. Although the military conflict ended in 2000, both states spent the next two decades on a war footing, with troops massed on the border and funding proxy elements to destabilise the other. Since 2000, the TPLF-led Ethiopian government largely succeeded in getting much of the world to establish warm diplomatic ties with Addis Ababa and isolating Eritrea internationally as a pariah state.
Eritrea was left with little leverage or diplomatic clout when it was slapped with sanctions and an arms embargo by the UN in 2009, for allegedly supporting extremist groups in Somalia. Mr Isaias spent years lashing out at Addis Ababa and the TPLF, who he blamed for Eritrea’s isolation. In 2018, Mr Abiy extended an olive branch in 2018, restoring ties with Eritrea. The endeavour would win him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 and help bring the Eritrean dictator in from the cold. But analysts now think that this prize-winning peace deal was little more than a military pact designed to crush the TPLF once and for all.