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Ethiopian army to move in on Tigray capital as surrender ultimatum runs out, PM says – National

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Ethiopia’s prime minister says the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigray capital after his 72-hour ultimatum for Tigray leaders to surrender ended, and he warns residents to “stay indoors.”

The statement Thursday by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office means tanks and other weaponry can now close in on the city of some half-million people. His government has warned of “no mercy” if residents don’t move away from the Tigray leaders in time.

Read more: Over 25,300 Ethiopian refugees fleeing Tigray region have reached Sudan, UN says

The new statement asserts that thousands of Tigray militia and special forces surrendered during the 72-hour period.

“We will take utmost care to protect civilians,” it says.

Communications remain severed to Tigray, making it difficult to verify claims.

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3:06At least 32,000 refugees flee conflict in northern Ethiopia At least 32,000 refugees flee conflict in northern Ethiopia

Fuel and cash are running out in the region, more than 1 million people are now estimated to be displaced and food for nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea will be gone in a week, according to a new United Nations report released overnight. And more than 600,000 people who rely on monthly food rations haven’t received them this month.

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Travel blockages are so dire that even within the Tigray capital, Mekele, the U.N. World Food Program cannot obtain access to transport food from its warehouses there.

Communications and travel links remain severed with the Tigray region since the deadly conflict broke out on Nov. 4, and now Human Rights Watch is warning that “actions that deliberately impede relief supplies” violate international humanitarian law.

Read more: Leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray region says troops fired missiles at neighbouring Eritrea

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The U.N. has reported people fleeing the city. Abiy’s government had warned them of “no mercy” if residents didn’t move away from the TPLF leaders who are accused of hiding among the population.

But with communications cut, it’s not clear how many people in Mekele received the warnings. The alarmed international community is calling for immediate de-escalation, dialogue and humanitarian access.

Abiy on Wednesday, however, rejected international “interference.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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