Ethiopian government moves to quell rebellion in Tigray region

Ethiopian government moves to quell rebellion in Tigray region
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Renewed fighting broke out in the Ethiopian region of Tigray Saturday as the government in Addis Ababa moved to quell a rebellion in the restive area.

Ethiopian forces launched an offensive in the region to capture Tigray’s capital city of Mekelle, an Ethiopian diplomat and the leader of Tigrayan forces told Reuters. Eyewitnesses also told CNN that renewed fighting broke out in the city, which comes amid what Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed calls the “final phase” of the military’s operations there.

A communications blackout in the region has made reporting on the conflict difficult, but government officials from around the world sounded the alarm over the surge in violence, which in past days has been characterized by violence against civilians. 

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Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), specified in a text message to Reuters Saturday that Mekelle was under “heavy bombardment”.

“The United States is gravely concerned about the worsening situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. We support the @_AfricanUnion efforts to initiate dialogue and restore peace. The parties must protect civilians and allow aid to reach refugees and all in need of help,” tweeted U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft.

“I invite everyone to pray for #Ethiopia where armed clashes have intensified and are causing a serious humanitarian situation. I appeal to the parties in conflict so that the violence might ceases, life may be safeguarded and the populations can regain #peace,” Pope FrancisPope FrancisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? Pope Francis challenges vaccine skeptics Pope on Biden communion debate: Bishops shouldn't 'go condemning' MORE echoed.

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Clashes have been ongoing between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF since early November after an attack by the rebels on federal troops at a base in Tigray. Abiy accuses the TPLF of starting the fighting, while the group says the strike was a pre-emptive attack.

Thousands of people are estimated to have died in the fighting thus far, and tens of thousands of Tigrayans have already fled their homes.

Addis Ababa indicated late this week that it intended to ramp up its operations in Tigray, releasing a readout Friday of Abiy’s meeting with African Union officials, which said he informed them that the operation “would not last long.”

Abiy also warned in a memo Thursday that the campaign in Tigray would enter its “final stage” after the end of a 72-hour ceasefire. 

“The last peaceful gate which had remained open for the TPLF clique to walk through have now been firmly closed as a result of TPLF’s contempt for the people of Ethiopia,” he warned.

In the middle of the conflict is Eritrea, a neighbor of the Tigray region that views the TPLF as a top rival. The group ran Ethiopia in the late 1990s during a brutal war with Eritrea, though Abiy now has close ties to the government in Asmara. The Ethiopian government has denied TPLF claims that Eritrean forces are operating now in Ethiopia.