Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers forcibly detained more than 500 men and women from four camps for displaced people in the town of Shire in the northern Tigray region on Monday night, aid workers and a doctor confirmed to Reuters as witnesses to the incident.
A local man in one of the four camps hid from the soldiers and observed the scene, according to DW: "The soldiers surrounded our camp at night, broke the main gate and started beating everyone with sticks, beat a 70-year-old man and abducted a blind man. From our camp alone, the Tsehaye primary school, 400 (people) were taken".
Amnesty International researcher Fisseha Tekele said troops beat the detainees and confiscated their phones before forcing them onto trucks, confirming that Tseheye and Adiwonfito camps were among the troops' targets, according to DW.
The arrests come after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive in November against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), a paramilitary organisation and political party based in the region. The operation began after TPLF attacks on federal military bases in the area, which Ahmed has described as "treason".
Last month, the Ethiopian government announced the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from the Tigray area after acknowledging their presence in the region, but their alleged involvement in this incursion belies the Ethiopian prime minister's promises.
So far, there has been no comment from the Ethiopian army on the arrests. For his part, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel called the incident a propaganda attempt by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and said he saw no reason to "round up IDPs", notes DW.
Amnesty International has repeatedly denounced the lack of intervention by the African Union and governments in the region during the complex situation in Ethiopia, "the African Union and governments in the region have done little to speak out against the large number of probable war crimes and crimes against humanity," said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
The fifth assessment by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), states that more than 1.7 million people displaced by the conflict "require urgent assistance in 265 accessible locations in Tigray and neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions" according to data compiled by the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).
Food insecurity in the conflict-affected regions of Ethiopia is the main focus of international concern. According to the DTM analysis, there is an urgent need to address food insecurity by assisting displaced people and providing "shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene and other non-food items in conflict-affected areas".
The UN has also expressed concern: "Today, at least 20 percent of the population in this area is facing food insecurity," said UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcoc, according to France 24.
In addition, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric explained during a press conference that humanitarian workers have increased their complaints about blockades of international aid and "seizures of humanitarian vehicles and supplies by the parties to the conflict in Tigray", Europa Press reports.