An air strike has hit the capital of Ethiopia's Tigray region while the UN says it is slashing by more than half its Tigray presence as a government blockade halts humanitarian aid efforts and people die from lack of food.
The war in Africa's second-most populous country has ground on for nearly a year between Ethiopian and allied forces and the Tigray ones who long dominated the national government before a falling-out with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
There were no immediate details of deaths or damage from the new air strike in Mekele, reported by Kindeya Gebrehiwot of the Tigray external affairs office and confirmed by a resident and a humanitarian worker.
It came two days after Ethiopia's air force confirmed air strikes in Mekele that a witness said killed three children. The air force said communications towers and equipment were attacked.
Mekele hadn't seen fighting since June, when Tigray forces retook much of the region in a dramatic turn in the war.
The air strikes have caused fresh panic in a city under siege, where doctors and others have described running out of medicines and other basic needs.
Despite pleas from the UN and others to allow basic services and humanitarian aid to Tigray's 6 million people, Ethiopia's government this week called those expectations "absurd" while the Tigray forces now fight in the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced there, widening the deadly crisis.
"Although not all movements have yet taken place, there will probably be a reduction from nearly 530 to around 220 UN staff on the ground in Tigray," UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu told The Associated Press.
The decision is "directly linked to the operation constraints we have been faced with over the last months" along with the volatile security situation, he said.
The lack of fuel and cash because of the government's blockade on Tigray "has made it extremely challenging for humanitarians to sustain life-saving activities" at the time they're needed most, Abreu added.
Some 1200 humanitarian workers including the reduced UN presence will remain in Tigray, he said.
The AP in recent weeks has confirmed the first starvation deaths in Tigray under the government blockade.
Australian Associated Press