Tigray crisis: Ethiopian army advances with attacks, claims control on several towns
Weeks into the conflict between Ethiopian army and the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front in the north Tigray region of Ethiopia, army has advanced with what it calls the ‘final phase’ of the offensive in region to cease the TPLF control in the region. After the 72 hours deadline given by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to rebels to surrender expired on Wednesday, the army has begun its operation and proceeded its advancement towards the region.
The army has claimed of since seizing control of many towns in the northern Tigray region. Lt. Gen. Hassan Ibrahim has communicated of capturing various towns including Wikro town, that lies north of Mekelle, capital city of Tigray.
The Tigray conflict has been gaining attention of human rights groups and activists, and the United Nations that are fearing a greater humanitarian crisis in the region due to bloody and aggressively advancing conflict. Till date hundreds and thousands of people have been killed and several have been forced to fled from their homes to escape the war and as the towns get seized by the Ethiopian army. Hundreds of people have also been reported to fled to neighbouring Sudan, which the UN fears can lead to crisis in Sudan also as the country is already receiving great influx of immigrants from other African countries.
Ethiopian government has blocked all communication channels, including internet and mobile communications with Tigray region and hence exact details of fighting are tough to confirm.
On Friday, PM Abiy Ahmed told African Union (AU) appointed peace envoy that civilians will be protected in the region. Ahmed had also previously told Mekelle civilians to stay at home. TPLF, the governing body in Tigray has vowed to keep fighting and refused to surrender.
No humanitarian worker or AU envoy are allowed to visit the conflict zone and this has been raising concerns. UN has warned of war crimes due to absence of any neutral body in Tigray region. In response, Ethiopian authorities have said of opening a ‘humanitarian access route’ in region that well be overseen by Ethiopian government. They affirmed of their commitment to “work with UN agencies… to protect civilians and those who need it.”
On Thursday, army sealed its borders with Sudan to prevent people from fleeing the war in country. Already over 40,000 have been displaced.
Experts at the UN fear that in absence of either side ready to settle down, the war can turn into a guerilla conflict. TPLF leader, Debretsion Gebremichael said that Tigray forces are “ready to die in defence of our right to administer our region.” The conflict has great chances of destabilizing the Horn of Africa.