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The BBC's Angus Stickler
"Ethiopian ground forces are continuing to press North"
 real 28k

Friday, 19 May, 2000, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
Ethiopia bombs Eritrean coast
Map: Eritrea/Ethiopia
Ethiopia says it doesn't intend to over-run Eritrea
Ethiopia's airforce has conducted bombing raids on the Eritrean coast, near the main port of Massawa.

The bombing represents Ethiopia's furthest ever incursion into Eritrean territory, and follows the capture of strategic territory in south-western Eritrea.

The raid comes amid warnings of a humanitarian crisis caused by an exodus of refugees from the battle zone.

Ethiopian Government spokesperson Selome Tadesse said the air force had attacked positions 200km north-east of the main area of fighting.

I'll fight them with sticks and stones. I don't need training

Eritrean student in Asmara
But the Eritrean government spokesman Yemane Gebremeskel says the port of Massawa itself had not been hit.

"Ethiopia, however, is saying it bombed our main harbour Massawa which is absolutely incorrect," he said.

Mr Yemane admitted, however, that Ethiopian planes had bombed the small town of Irafalle, south of the port.

He said a woman had been killed in the raid.

Human suffering

Earlier the Eritrean Government warned of a humanitarian crisis in the main area of fighting in the south-west of the country, where more than 500,000 people are estimated to be fleeing advancing Ethiopian forces.

Refugee family
More than half a million Eritreans now face a humanitarian crisis
The Eritrean Government's Relief and Refugee Commission has appealed for international help both for these displaced people and for a further 350,000 others who it says are already affected by drought in the area.

"It is no less than a humanitarian crisis," said agency official Worku Tesfamichael.

World Food Programme Brenda Barton described the situation as "very serious".

"At the moment we are scrambling around to try and source the quantities and kinds of food we will need to sustain a very large population on the move," she said.

Eritrean fears

Ethiopian forces captured the key south-western Eritrean town of Barentu on Wednesday night and Eritrean forces are reported to have evacuated the next major town in the area, Akordat, as a precautionary measure.

Eritrean prisoners of war
Eritrean prisoners of war are being held in the occupied area
There are fears in Eritrea that Ethiopia will push further towards Asmara, but Ms Salome said her country had no intention of seizing control of Eritrea.

She said the only objective was to regain border territory under Eritrean occupation.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has condemned a UN Security Council decision to impose an arms embargo against both countries.

He said Ethiopia was simply reversing an earlier aggression by Eritrea about which the UN has remained silent.

Eritrea has also condemned the bilateral UN sanctions, saying that the Ethiopian invasion a week ago made Eritrea the victim of aggression.

In the Eritrean capital on Friday the university and many other schools remained closed as thousands of students left their studies to join the military.

"I'm going. If they won't give me a gun, I'll fight them with sticks and stones. I don't need training," one angry student told reporters.

The students had on Thursday demonstrated in the city demanding UN intervention against what they described as Ethiopian aggression.

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See also:

19 May 00 | Africa
Victory on the back of a donkey
18 May 00 | Africa
Asmara fears the worst
19 May 00 | UK Politics
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17 May 00 | Media reports
War of words in the Horn
16 May 00 | Africa
More Eritreans rushed to front
16 May 00 | Africa
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