By Naadiya Adams
As global pressures mount following a two-week offensive in Tigray, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says military operations in the area will enter its final phase.
Ahmed said on Tuesday a three-day deadline for the Tigray People’s Liberation Movement to surrender had expired, paving the way for the ultimate push on Mekelle, the region’s capital.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate announced the campaign against Tigray’s ruling party, the TPLF on 4 November, saying it came in response to attacks by the TPLF on federal military camps.
The fighting has left hundreds dead and around 25,000 Ethiopians have already fled across the border into Sudan, with many more refugees expected. The UN has described it as a humanitarian crisis unfolding.
On Friday, Ahmed declared the TPLF was “in the final throes of death” and gave troops in the region three days to “rise up” and side with the national army.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday morning, he said time was up.
“The three-day deadline for the Tigray regional special forces and militia to hand themselves over to national defence forces instead of being a tool for the greedy junta has expired. Those Tigray special forces and militia who used the three-day deadline are appreciated,” he said.
Since the deadline has been completed, in the coming days the final law enforcement activities will be done.”
Communication lines in the Tigray region are down, making it difficult to gauge how the fighting is going.
Fighting has been heavy in Tigray’s western zone, where federal forces claim to control. Over the weekend they said they had seized the town of Alamata, 180 kilometres south of the regional capital, Mekele.
Tigrayan leader Debretsion Gebremichael is not backing down and told AFP that “the government and people of Tigray” would hold their ground, meaning fighting would continue.
“This campaign cannot be finished. As long as the army of the invaders is in our land, the fight will continue. They cannot keep us silent by military force,” he said.
The Prime Minister has resisted calls by world leaders to cease hostilities and accept mediation.