Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Thursday announced the military has started the final phase of an offensive in the northern Tigray region, as an ultimatum for Tigray forces to surrender has already expired, reported Africa News.
On Sunday, the government gave the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party which controls Tigray, 72 hours to surrender or face an assault on Mekelle, the regional capital city of 500,000 people.
“The 72-hour period granted to the criminal TPLF clique to surrender peacefully is now over and our law enforcement campaign has reached its final stage,” Mr. Abiy tweeted on Thursday, referring to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The Ethiopian Prime Minister said the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigray capital, Mekelle. He warned the residents of Mekelle to disarm, stay indoors as well as to stay away from military targets.
“Our National Defence Forces have carefully devised a strategy to bring the TPLF criminal clique to justice without harming innocent civilians, heritage sites, places of worship, development institutions and property,” he added.
Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed in fighting and air strikes that erupted on Nov. 4, after the government accused the TPLF of ambushing a federal military base. About 40,000 refugees have already fled into neighboring Sudan.
The United Nations said it was planning for the possible arrival of as many as 200,000 refugees in Sudan fleeing violence in Ethiopia over a six-month period.
On Wednesday, the Ethiopian Prime Minister s rejected a growing international consensus for dialogue and a halt to deadly fighting in the Tigray region. He said he won’t tolerate any interference in the country’s internal affairs.
“The international community should stand by until the government of Ethiopia submits its requests for assistance to the community of nations,” Mr. Abiy said in a statement.