While the reason for the conflict remained unclear, it underscored the increased hostile rhetoric between the two governments, which for the last 16 years have neither been “at war or at peace” with each other, according to BBC’s Ethiopia correspondent Emmanuel Igunza.
Each side is now accusing the other of starting the border conflict with the Eritrean government saying that Ethiopia had “unleashed” the attack, while Ethiopia says the clashes were “an Eritrean initiative”.
“There were significant casualties on both sides, but more on the Eritrean side,” AP quoted Ethiopia’s Information Minister Getachew Reda telling reporters.
Getachew said Eritrean forces fired into Ethiopian positions Sunday, leading to a counter-offensive by Ethiopian troops.
“I hope this time around they won’t make that stupid mistake of inviting us to wage a full-scale war,” he added.
Eritrea charged on Sunday that Ethiopian troops had attacked its position in the Tsorona Central Front, a border area between the two countries that saw one of the bloodiest battles during their 1998-2000 border war.
Over 80,000 people died during the previous border war on the Tsorona border area.
Reports of continued fighting and the lack of solid information raised fears that the two countries could be sliding once again toward all-out war.
Last week, a United Nations panel accused Eritrea’s leaders of committing crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and enslavement.
Getachew told BBC that he suspected that the main reason Eritrea launched the attack was to try and deflect attention away from the UN human rights report — claims the Eritrean government denied.
Ethiopian has also criticized the European Union (EU) for creating a trust fund to boost economic development in Eritrea and other countries that people try to leave with the hope of finding a better life in Europe IBTimes reported.
Getachew alleged that Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki would use the UN money to fund rebel movements that aim to destabilise the neighbouring Ethiopia.
Eritrea was the African country with the highest number of people who tried to leave for Europe in 2015.