Ethiopia warns civilians of ‘no mercy’ in Tigray offensive

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The Ethiopian military is warning civilians in the besieged regional capital of Tigray that there will be “no mercy” if they do not “run away” before a final offensive to flush out rebel regional leaders – a threat Human Rights Watch said on Sunday that she could violate international law.

“From now on, the fighting will be a tank battle,” spokesman for Colonel Dejene Tsegaye said on Saturday evening, saying the army was marching on the capital of Tigray, Mekele, and would surround it with tanks. “Our people in Mekele must be informed that they must protect themselves from heavy artillery.”

He accused the Tigray rulers of hiding among the city’s population of around half a million and warned civilians to “get away” from them.

But “treating an entire city as a military target would not only be illegal, but could also be seen as a form of collective punishment,” Human Rights Watch researcher Laetitia Bader tweeted Sunday.

“In other words, war crimes,” tweeted former US National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed, in a new statement gives leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front 72 hours to surrender, saying “you are at a point of no return “. He accused TPLF leaders of using religious sites, hotels, schools “and even cemeteries” as hiding places and of using the people of Mekele as human shields.

For days, Abiy’s government claimed it was marching towards Mekele in a final push to end the deadly conflict that erupted on November 4 between the federal government and the heavily armed regional government of Tigray. The TPLF dominated the ruling coalition in Ethiopia for a quarter of a century before Abiy took office, introduced dramatic political reforms, and ousted the TPLF leadership.

Now each side sees itself as illegal, complicating international calls for dialogue, fearing that one of Africa’s most powerful and populous nations will fracture and destabilize Africa’s strategic horn.

Communications and transport to the Tigray region being almost completely interrupted, it is difficult to verify the claims of the warring parties.

And the Ethiopian government has expelled an International Crisis Group analyst William Davison. The government did not give a formal reason, the organization said, but “in the end, there is no doubt that the reason for his expulsion is related to the current tense situation in the country and the growing sensitivity authorities from viewpoints that are not. cut his line.

He added: “It should be noted that on the same day that Mr. Davison was deported, the authorities also sent warning letters to the Reuters news agency correspondent in Ethiopia and to BBC and radio stations. Deutsche Welle. “

Meanwhile, a vast humanitarian crisis unfolds, with the United Nations saying around 2 million people in Tigray are in urgent need of help as food, fuel, medical supplies and more are desperately depleted.

Two refugee crises are on the rise. More than 35,000 Ethiopians fled to a remote part of Sudan, where local communities and aid workers struggled to feed and accommodate them. And inside the Tigray region, the fighting has drawn closer to the camps that are housing nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea. Some Eritreans have fled to Sudan a second time.

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