By Reuters By Reuters, Ethiopians flee the Tigray Warfare to cross the river

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© Reuters. Ethiopians can be seen on the Setit on the Sudan-Ethiopian border in the village of Hamdait in the eastern state of Kassala

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By Khaled Abdelaziz and El Tayeb Siddig

HAMDAYAT, Sudan (Reuters) – Ethiopians who fled the war in the northern Tigray region crossed a border river into neighboring Sudan on Saturday, some in boats, some swimming or wading through the water.

In an interview with Reuters in the Sudanese border town of Hamdayat, they reported on the escalating conflict in the state of Tigray, in which government troops are fighting fighters who are loyal to rebellious local leaders.

There is a camp for 8,000 refugees in the small town. Several hundred arrived on Saturday morning, with hundreds more crowded onto the rocky banks of the Tekeze.

Refugees told stories of artillery attacks and shooting in the streets, with fighting spilling over into the neighboring state of Amhara.

With access to Tigray blocked and communication largely disrupted, it was impossible to check the status of the conflict or confirm the refugees’ accounts.

“We are hungry and afraid that they will kill us,” said one old woman, referring to government forces fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

She spoke shortly after paying 30 Ethiopian biir (about 80 US cents) to the owner of a small boat to take her across the river while women and children watched swimming. Refugees said a person drowned trying to cross the night before.

Niqisti, 42, said her brother was shot dead by government militiamen outside her home in Humera, Tigray state, and her small restaurant was ransacked. It was not possible to verify your account.

Sudanese officials registered refugees.

“People are hungry and the flow of refugees continues, but we have little to offer,” said Salah Ramadan, head of the border town’s administration.

Mubarak Abdallah, a 28-year-old Sudanese farmer, said supplies at the local food market have dwindled.

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Hundreds of people have been killed since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the National Defense on an offensive against local forces in Tigray last week, accusing them of attacking federal troops.

Abiy said government jets bombed military targets in Tigray, including weapons depots and equipment controlled by the Tigrayan armed forces.

However, several refugees said their areas had been shelled by artillery from neighboring Eritrea in support of the Ethiopian army. Reuters was unable to independently verify this.

Tigray’s leader, Debretsion Gebremichael, said Tuesday that Eritrea had sent troops across the border in support of Ethiopian government forces but had not presented any evidence.

Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed denied this on Friday.

“We were shot at by artillery volleys across the Eritrean border,” said Naksiam Guru, a 22-year-old refugee who lives near the border. “I saw people die in the streets.”

Burhani Abraham, 31, who arrived four days ago with his wife and three-year-old child, also reported shelling from Eritrea.

“I’m very hungry,” he said, sitting in the overcrowded makeshift camp.

A 26-year-old farmer from the Tigray area said the TPLF tried to recruit him but he ran away. He didn’t want to give his name. “I’m a simple farmer who grows corn … I’m afraid of war and death,” he said.

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