By Hannatu Sadiq
Tigray forces have reportedly seized Lalibela in Amhara region on Thursday. Known for its rock-hewn cathedrals, it is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites and dubbed ‘the second Jerusalem’.
The seizure comes a day after aid supplies, including food, non-food items and fuel reached Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region
Thousands of fighters are estimated to have entered Lalibela, causing many people to flee for their lives.
The small town is home to 11 monolithic churches carved entirely from rock dating from around the 11th and 12th centuries.
Over time, the churches have succumbed to the elements and restoration projects have been required to protect them.
Now the presence of Tigray forces have startled those in the region.
A resident said, although the forces entered peacefully, they were scared and worried about damage to the ancient structures.
Though Tigray forces in June reclaimed much of the region as Ethiopian and allied forces retreated, western Tigray is still controlled by authorities from Ethiopia’s neighboring Amhara region, who have cleared out many ethnic Tigrayans while saying the land is historically theirs.
With the Tigray forces pushing south after threatening to go as far as the capital if needed, the U.N. humanitarian chief and the USAID administrator in visits to Ethiopia this week, urged a cease-fire and talks.
Sudan has offered to play a role in mediation and could also be a direct aid passageway to Tigray.