A spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been locked in a brutal conflict with pro-government forces in northern Ethiopia for 11 months, said Saturday there was a “massive move” against the rebels.
TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said there had been “mostly air, drone and artillery bombardment” of rebels, and reported a major troop build-up, saying “tens of thousands are amassed” in northern Amhara including the North Gondar and North Wollo zones.
Humanitarian sources told AFP that federal soldiers and Amhara regional troops had conducted air and ground offensives around North Wollo and other locations on Thursday and Friday.
– Threat of sanctions –
Although government forces quickly took control of Tigray’s cities and towns, the TPLF recaptured most of the region including the capital Mekele by late June, and Abiy later declared a unilateral ceasefire.
Untold numbers of civilians have been killed, nearly two million have been displaced, and there have been many reports of atrocities including massacres and mass rape.
– Warning of ‘catastrophe’ –
“If this force (Ethiopia’s army) is able to penetrate into Tigray, that will be a catastrophe,” said Gebremeskel Kassa, an outspoken critic of Eritrean forces fighting alongside Ethiopian soldiers in the region.
There has been speculation the fighting could pick up now the rainy season is ending, and with mass mobilisation throughout the country and in Amhara in particular.
Abiy’s government sparked global outrage last week when it expelled senior UN officials for “meddling” in Ethiopia’s affairs, exacerbating concerns about the humanitarian crisis.
Tigray is under a de facto blockade that is preventing most aid from getting in. Ethiopian officials blame the TPLF for obstructing deliveries, but the US has said access to essential supplies and services was being denied by the Ethiopian government.
Meanwhile, voters in southwestern Ethiopia overwhelmingly backed the creation of a new region in a September referendum, the election board announced Saturday, according to state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate.