The Ethiopian military will begin the “final phase” of an offensive in the northern Tigray region, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said in a statement, hours after an ultimatum for the Tigrayan forces to surrender expired, reports Al Jazeera.
“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,” he tweeted on Thursday, referring to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
In statement hours after an ultimatum for TPLF to surrender expired, the prime minister asks residents in capital Mekelle to ‘stay indoors’.
Abiy said the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, and warned its residents to “stay indoors”.
The statement by the prime minister’s office means tanks and other weaponry can now close in on the city of some half a million people. “We will take utmost care to protect civilians,” it says.
“Prime Minister Abiy said thousands of Tigrayan fighters have surrendered in the last three days. But the last comment we heard from the TPLF leadership refuted that claim,” he said.
“Government forces also said they have surrounded Mekelle. Again, Tigray military leadership have refuted that claim.”
Thousands of people are already believed to have died and there has been widespread destruction from aerial bombardment and ground fighting since the conflict began on November 4.
The international community is pleading for immediate de-escalation, dialogue and humanitarian access as Ethiopian forces fight their way through Tigray to Mekelle.
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