According to Ethiopia, Mekele, the capital of the rebellious Tigray region, was captured

After Saturday’s offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the Ethiopian armed forces “fully control” the city of Mekele. resolution the country’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed Ali.

The attack on the city marks the latest clash between the Ethiopian federal government and the Ethiopian political party, the TPLF, which began earlier this month when the TPLF launched a so-called pre-emptive strike against a federal military facility in Tigray, a region. In northern Ethiopia. The federal government claimed that the partyto plunder”Base and responded with a full attack to the attack that is now steering the country towards a huge humanitarian crisis.

Mekele is the capital of Tigray, with a population of about half a million, which is controlled by the TPLF. The group dominated national politics in Ethiopia until Abiy became prime minister in 2018 and introduced a number of reforms – including the dismissal of TPLF officials accused of corruption.

Last Sunday, Abiy issued an ultimatum demanding a peaceful surrender by TPLF leaders “within the next 72 hours, recognizing that you are not at a return point”. That deadline was not met, and Abiy responded with Saturday’s offensive.

According to the Washington Post, “the cessation of communications and the ban on media access have made it almost impossible for much of Tigray to substantiate the government’s allegations,” and so far relatively little has been known about how the battle for the Mekele took place.

One of the main questions is to what extent civilians have been protected from fighting – and the details of this are being debated. Debretsion Gebremichael, head of the TPLF, said the city, including civilian areas, was “severely bombed” on Saturday before being captured by federal troops and humanitarian groups allegedly confirmed to Agence France-Presse that artillery had been used.

These reports led to Tibor Nagy, Deputy Secretary of State for African Africa beep that on Saturday morning “the fighting and shooting in the Mekele area is a matter of very serious concern”.

But Abiy’s spokesman disputed the allegation and told the Guardian that “Ethiopian national defense forces have no mission to bomb their own city and people.”

In a statement posted on Twitter, Abiy also claimed that the Ethiopian National Defense Forces[undertaken] the operation with precision and due diligence for citizens, ensuring that civilians are not targeted.

“The people of the Tigray region in all corners have provided the greatest support and cooperation to the Ethiopian national defense forces,” he said.

Humanitarian groups said they did not allow the necessary access to substantiate Abiy’s allegations – although the federal government ordered the creation of relief roads across Tigray on Thursday. The United Nations has warned that 6 million people in Tigray could soon be left without enough food and water.

Abiy’s role in the crisis is particularly remarkable as he won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize after making a surprising peace with neighboring Eritrea. However, it proved incapable of resolving rising tensions with the TPLF – and this new conflict spread to Eritrea when the TPLF launched a missile attack on the Eritrean capital of Asmara on 14 November.

Debretsion, the head of the TPLF, told the Associated Press that Asmara was a “legitimate military target” because Eritrea had sent troops to the Tigray region of Ethiopia – but it is unclear whether it did. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo strongly condemned the attack last week.

“We are deeply concerned about this blatant attempt by the TPLF, which is causing regional instability by extending its conflict with the Ethiopian authorities to neighboring countries,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We also condemn TPLF’s November 13 rocket attacks on Bahir Dar and Gondar airports in Ethiopia.”

However, it is clear that tens of thousands of refugees were forced to flee the fighting in Tigray – and that even before Saturday’s offensive, violence between the TPLF and Ethiopian federal forces caused a widespread humanitarian catastrophe.

The conflict is causing a “full-scale” humanitarian crisis in the region

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned earlier last week that the flow of refugees from Ethiopia in neighboring Sudan was “rapidly outpacing the humanitarian response capability on the ground,” and the agency said in a statement on November 17 that 4,000 people crossed the day. border.

By Saturday, some 43,000 refugees had already flocked to Sudan, according to Al Jazeera, and more than a million had left the fighting.

There are also widespread reports of atrocities as the conflict continues. According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, At least 600 civilians from other ethnic groups were massacred by Tigray security forces retreating from Ethiopian federal forces in early November, and the number of possible deaths could be even higher, according to the EHRC.

On the other side of the conflict, Sudanese refugees told the Washington Post “genocide against tigray people”.

“They’re killing people crazy,” one of the refugees said. “We saw a lot of the dead on the way. We didn’t take food and clothes with us – we just escaped to save our lives and the lives of our children. “

According to the UNHCR, up to 100,000 Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region could leave the conflict again, further exacerbating the crisis. Allegedly, access to refugee aid and services was only made impossible by the fighting.

“As a result of the crisis, the humanitarian situation is growing rapidly,” said UN spokesman Babar Baloch last week. “UNHCR reiterates its call for peace and urges all parties to respect the safety of all Tigray citizens.”

Last week, Abiy promised to “reintegrate our Ethiopian companions fleeing to neighboring countries” – although the exact implementation of this is not yet clear. On Saturday, however he said the federal government planned to enter an immediate recovery phase: “We are now focusing on rebuilding the region and providing humanitarian assistance while the federal police grasp the TPLF click.”