Unclear if the mediaeval rock hewn churches of Lalibela have sustained damage from Ethiopian Defense Force artillery shelling
The 12th century Rock-Hewn Church in Lalibela – a UNESCO Heritage site – has been one of the leading tourist attraction sites in Ethiopia generating millions of dollars for the government.
The heritage site now seems to be in danger as it has turned out to be part of the war zone. Sources reported that the site came under heavy artillery shelling on Wednesday this week.
The Defense Post cited residents from Lalibela town and reported ” The historic Ethiopian town of Lalibela was rocked by the sound of heavy artillery on Wednesday as federal government troops fired towards areas where local militias were believed to be hiding.”
Based on the report, members of the Ethiopian Defense Force mounted heavy artillery from within Lalibela City targeting Fano combatants who were reported to be in the outskirts of the town.
Government soldiers were going house-to-house in search of Fano supporters.
Ayalew works in tourism as an eye witness who lives in Lalibela. He is quoted as saying “I am inside my home for now and they (Ethiopian troops) are going door to door, checking youths for possible Fano supporters.”
The region has been under a state of emergency since early August although the Ethiopian government started the military campaign in the Amhara region at least four months before the introduction.
The Internet has been shut and access to reporters, and investigators has been restricted – a situation that makes verifying information on the ground very difficult.
It is reported that hundreds of civilians have been killed across many towns in the region including due to heavy artillery shelling in residential areas and drone strikes. The number is expected to rise once the internet restriction is lifted and investigators are allowed to the region.
The Ethiopian government has not released any information regarding the number of casualties in connection with the ongoing war in the Amhara region.
It is for the second time that Lalibela has become a war zone in less than two years. The two years war that ended in November 2022 between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Federal government is estimated to have claimed more than one million civilians including from the Lalibela area.
In addition to being a tourist attraction, Lalibela – dubbed as the Jerusalem of Ethiopia – is a sacred place of pilgrimage for followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Fano volunteers, who are now resisting the government military campaign to disarm them, fought alongside the Ethiopian Defense Force during the Federal government war against TPLF.
Following the Pretoria agreement, Prosperity Party leaders and TPLF leaders forged what looks like a political and military alliance.
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