NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – The Ethiopian prime minister said Thursday that the army was instructed to move the Tigray regional capital after its 72-hour ultimatum ended for the surrender of Tigray leaders and warned the city’s half a million residents to stay inside. and disarm.
Instead, “more and more people are leaving Mekele” after the deadline, ”said UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu. They join tens of thousands of displaced people in the region, which is almost completely cut off from the world and beyond beyond essential food and other assistance.
After three weeks of fighting, the military offensive “has reached its final stage,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said. This means tanks and other weapons could be locked into Mekele, whose inhabitants were warned “without mercy” if they did not move away from the defiant Tigray leaders in time.
This has provoked international alarm, as advocacy groups say such wording could violate international law and put civilians in further danger. “We take the utmost care to protect civilians,” Abiy said in a statement. He also claimed that thousands of Tigray militias and special forces surrendered during the 72-hour period.
Tigray’s regional leaders could not be reached immediately. Due to broken communication and transport links, it remains difficult to verify the allegations of the outbreak of fighting On November 4, between the Ethiopian forces and the heavily armed forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which once ruled the Ethiopian government but stood aside under Abiy’s rule. The two governments now consider each other illegal.
The struggle threatens to destabilize Ethiopia, which is called the strategic branch of the Horn of Africa and even its neighbors.
“What happens is out of words and heartbreaking when a big country collapses,” a message sent by a Mekelei resident on Wednesday, seen by The Associated Press. The message expressed hopelessness that we could not reach our loved ones in other parts of the region and added, “Ohhhhhhhh GOD!”
But the situation in Mekele has remained quiet, spokesman Crystal Wells told the International Committee of the Red Cross. “We were still able to continue our work and gather messages from Mekels who make contact outside of their families,” Tigray.
The international community is begging for immediate descent, dialogue, and humanitarian access as Ethiopian forces fought through Tigray to Mekele. Hundreds, maybe thousands, were killed. “In addition to the victims, there is a risk of a serious humanitarian crisis,” tweeted Janez Lenarcic, the European Union’s crisis commissioner.
Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, rejected international ‘intervention’. According to his government, there were three high-level envoys of the African Union in the conflict you can meet him, but not the leaders of the Tigray.
Abiy’s office first said a “humanitarian access route” would open under the direction of the country’s Ministry of Peace, with no details. He also said the distribution of benefits had begun in the Tigray area, which is now under government control.
This happened hours after the UN said the deficit had become “very critical” in the Tigray region, which has a population of 6 million.
The UN appreciates the Ethiopian government’s recognition of the need for urgent humanitarian assistance, Abreu said. “We look forward to working with all parties to the conflict to ensure that humanitarian workers have unconditional, secure and immediate access to and within Tigray. … we want to do this in accordance with the globally accepted principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and operational independence. “
Tigray runs out of fuel and cash, and food for nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees disappears in a week – UN update reveals overnight. And more than 600,000 people who rely on monthly meal rations didn’t get them this month.
Travel congestion is so severe that the UN World Food Program has no access to transport food from its warehouses, even within Mekele.
Human Rights Watch warns that “acts deliberately obstructing the delivery of aid” violate international humanitarian law, and a complete cessation of communication “could mean a kind of collective punishment by imposing punishments on people without a clear legal basis”.
A statement by the region’s civil society representative this week, which the AP saw, described severe bombings elsewhere that prevented many residents from fleeing.
Other people are moving frantically from one district to another in the Tigray region and “live in church buildings, streets, schools, health centers,” the statement warned, calling for a safe corridor for aid delivery when food runs out.
The fighting came dangerously close to the camps housing Eritrean refugees in Shire. “We are extremely concerned,” Abreu told the UN.
Another crisis is unfolding whereas more than 40 000 Ethiopian refugees have fled to remote areas of Sudan, where humanitarian groups and local communities are struggling with their feeding, treatment and shelter. Almost half of the refugees are children under the age of 18. Many fled with nothing.
“When it’s cold, it hurts so much,” said one wounded refugee, Alam Kafa. “I have to cover me tightly with a blanket at night so I can sleep.” But I don’t sleep at night.
“Just imagine everything, literally everything, from food, drinking water, toilets and washing your hands, to everything that depends on others,” said Javanshir Hajiyev with the aid group Merciful Corps. This is indeed a very serious situation. I can’t stress how hard it is. “
Fay Abuelgasim (Umm Rakouba) contributed to this report.