Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has given forces within the northern Tigray area a three-day ultimatum to give up earlier than the army begins an offensive on the rebel-held regional capital of Mekelle.
“We urge you to give up peacefully inside 72 hours, recognising that you’re on the level of no return,” Abiy mentioned in a Twitter message on Sunday night. There was no instant remark from the Tigray Individuals’s Liberation Entrance (TPLF), which guidelines Tigray.
Abiy’s assertion got here hours after an Ethiopian army spokesman mentioned the military plans to encompass Mekelle with tanks and will assault it with artillery to finish a virtually three-week battle, urging civilians to “save themselves”.
Army spokesman Colonel Dejene Tsegaye instructed the Ethiopia Broadcasting Company the following section of the operation was “to encircle Mekelle utilizing tanks”.
“We need to ship a message to the general public in Mekelle to save lots of yourselves from any artillery assaults and free yourselves from the junta … After that, there shall be no mercy,” he mentioned.
Ethiopian forces seized the city of Idaga Hamus, 97km (60 miles) from the rebel-held Tigray capital of Mekelle, a authorities activity drive additionally mentioned on Sunday.
“Our defence drive took management of Idaga Hamus city, which is positioned on the highway from Adigrat to Mekelle. The defence drive is advancing to seize Mekelle, which is the ultimate purpose of the operation,” it mentioned in a tweet.
The TPLF, which is refusing to give up its rule of the northern area, mentioned its forces have been digging trenches and standing agency.
Claims by all sides are exhausting to confirm as a result of journalists have been barred from cellphone and web communication that has been down since preventing started on November 4.
The battle has killed tons of, probably hundreds, and despatched greater than 30,000 refugees into neighbouring Sudan. Rockets have been fired by the TPLF into the neighbouring area of Amhara and throughout the border into Eritrea, because the TPLF accused each of aiding Ethiopia’s federal forces.
‘Couldn’t transfer an inch’
TPLF chief Debretsion Gebremichael instructed Reuters information company earlier on Sunday that his forces have been resisting a push from south of Mekelle whereas additionally preventing close to the northern city of Adigrat after it had fallen to federal troops.
“Encircling Mekelle is their plan however but they couldn’t,” he mentioned. “On [the] south entrance, they couldn’t transfer an inch for multiple week. They [are] sending waves after waves however to no avail.”
Abiy’s federal troops have taken a string of cities throughout aerial bombardments and floor preventing, and are actually aiming for Mekelle, a highland metropolis of about 500,000 folks the place the rebels are primarily based.
Nations round Africa and Europe have urged a truce, however Abiy has up to now rebuffed that.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from the capital, Addis Ababa, mentioned Ethiopian officers are describing the offensive because the “remaining push” to seize Tigray.
“They’ve been dropping leaflets on the capital, Mekelle, telling civilians who stay to be nowhere close to army installations,” mentioned Adow.
“Authorities troops are actually advancing from the north, south and west. However safety analysts are warning that any expectation of a speedy and decisive victory by authorities forces may be very optimistic they usually face a protracted battle of attrition.”
Matt Bryden, strategic adviser on the Sahan Analysis think-tank, instructed Al Jazeera this week: “Tigray sees itself as defending its personal sovereignty, the federal authorities Ethiopia’s unity – so that is shaping as much as be an existential conflict between the 2 sides.”
He added: “The terrain in Tigray favours the defenders who’re very closely armed and geared up; they’ve fought for many years in these mountains earlier than and the longer this goes on, extra grievances shall be amassed and the more durable this battle shall be to resolve.”
‘Take most restraint’
Abiy accuses the Tigrayan leaders of revolting in opposition to central authority and attacking federal troops within the city of Dansha on November 4. The rebels say his authorities has marginalised and persecuted Tigrayans since taking workplace two years in the past.
The prime minister drew plaudits for opening up Ethiopia’s closed financial system and repressive political system after taking workplace. He received a Nobel Peace Prize final yr for a peace settlement with Eritrea.
Redwan Hussein, spokesman for the federal government’s activity drive on Tigray, mentioned there was nonetheless time for the TPLF management to give up. “The federal government will take most restraint to not trigger main dangers for civilians,” he added.
He mentioned whereas many Tigrayan particular forces and militia fighters had surrendered or scattered round Adigrat, resistance was stronger on the southern entrance, the place rebels have dug up roads, destroyed bridges, and booby-trapped roads with explosives. He mentioned authorities troops had taken excessive floor there and have been shifting ahead.
Help companies concern a humanitarian catastrophe in a area the place tons of of hundreds relied on meals assist and have been displaced even earlier than preventing started.
Most of the individuals who have fled the preventing to Sudan say they don’t have anything, and badly want meals and different fundamentals.
“It’s not good. There isn’t a water. The stuff right here may be very costly,” mentioned Yarod Abraham, an Ethiopian refugee. “There isn’t a meals, water, shelter. We’ve got little children with us, they’re ravenous right here.”