Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday said the military operation launched against rebel forces in the northern Tigray region has entered its final phase, paving the way for a final push on Tigray’s capital, reported the BBC. He said a three-day deadline given for Tigray’s forces to surrender had now expired.
“The final critical act of law enforcement will be done in the coming days,” Prime Minister Abiy said.
Later on Tuesday, Abiy’s special task force on the Tigray conflict accused Tigray rebel forces of destroying bridges connecting Mekelle with the rest of the country in attempts to hold back federal government forces.
“The TPLF junta will soon be held accountable for destroying this infrastructure and for crimes it has committed so far,” the task force said.
Fighting erupted earlier this month after Ethiopia’s central government accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of conducting an illegal election and attacking a military base to steal weapons. The TPLF has denied the attack.
Hundreds of people have lost their lives since Ethiopian troops began the attack on Tigray. More than 27,000 people have fled into Sudan in an attempt to escape clashes across much of the region.
While the UN, the African Union and others international observers have called for talks, but Abiy, the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2019, continues to reject international pleas for dialogue. He said he will only negotiate when rule of law is restored in Ethiopia’s Tigray.
The United Nations said a “full-scale humanitarian crisis” was unfolding and thousands have been fleeing Ethiopia to escape the fighting.
“People are coming out of Ethiopia really scared, afraid, with stories saying they have been fleeing heavy fighting and there’s no sign of the fighting stopping,” said Babar Baloch, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Baloch said the UN agency was on stand-by to provide assistance in Tigray when access and security allow.