Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa) is alleged to have helped ship weapons, ammunition, and other military equipment from Addis Ababa to Asmara and Massawa in Eritrea during the 2020 escalation of the ongoing civil war between the Ethiopian federal government, allied with Eritrea, and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in violation of international law, a CNN investigation has claimed.

According to cargo manifests, waybills, and anonymous eyewitness accounts, state-owned Ethiopian Airlines transferred arms to Eritrea on at least six occasions between November 9 and November 28, 2020. However, sources said the flights may have continued beyond that date. Documents identified the Ethiopian Ministry of Defence as the customer for the cargo services.

Four of the six documented flights were operated to Asmara and two to Massawa. Flightradar24 ADS-B data, which is only partially available due to the lack of coverage in Eritrea, shows that the airline used three different B787-8s, one B737-800, one B767-300(ER), and one B777-200F for the flights.

Leaked documents and social media photos taken by employees verified by CNN suggest that additional flights could have been operated in November, including some transporting arms back from Eritrea to Addis Ababa and Bahar Dar in northern Ethiopia, in close proximity to Tigray province. Published photographic evidence clearly shows munitions being loaded into an aircraft cargo hold. Sources also said that they were ordered to load military vehicles with fuel in their tanks, in contravention of safety rules, and had to delay a scheduled cargo flight to Brussels National by one day due to the unscheduled flight to Eritrea.

Shipping weapons, munitions, and other military equipment through commercial air transport is a violation of the Chicago Convention.

The carrier said that "to the best of its knowledge and its records", it did not participate in transporting any war material on any of its flights.

"[Ethiopian Airlines] strictly complies with all national, regional and international aviation related regulations... The mentioned air waybills in the CNN article clearly show that the nature of goods transported on the alleged flights was “Food stuff and Refill” as declared on the document as per IATA standards. The alleged pictures are not known to Ethiopian Airlines," the airline said.

In November 2020, the Ethiopian federal government mounted a military offensive against the TPLF, an ethnic party governing the northern region and until 2018, the leading member of the federal ruling coalition. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accused the TPLF of staging an insurrection after it proceeded with regional elections, despite opposition from authorities in Addis Ababa. Acting in concert with Eritrean troops, the Ethiopian military has been accused of war crimes and grave human rights abuses, including genocide. Despite the early rapid success of the federal troops, the TPLF regained control over most of Tigray by mid-2021 as the situation largely evolved into a stalemate.

Under the autarkic dictatorship of Isaias Afwerki, who has led the country since its secession from Ethiopia in 1991, Eritrea has been subject to wide-ranging UN sanctions, including all arms transfers, since 2018.