Conflict Continuing

Nov 24, 2020

As of 23 November 2020, the conflict between the Ethiopian military and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is ongoing. According to a government spokesperson, the TPLF fired missiles at Amhara region’s Bahir Dar again on 23 November, although the latest attack reportedly caused no damage or casualties.

On 22 November Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed issued an ultimatum to the TPLF forces to surrender the Tigray regional capital Mekele within 72 hours or face a military offensive against the city. A military spokesperson stated that forces plan to surround Mekele with tanks and shell the city with artillery until it surrenders. The government also warned civilians that there would be “no mercy” during the effort to capture the capital, alleging that TPLF members are hiding among civilians and inside of various community centers; international organizations and human rights groups warned that attacking the city as a target would violate international law and constitute war crimes. Meanwhile, the TPLF stated that its forces are digging trenches and intend to hold their ground.

Also on 22 November, a government spokesperson stated that the military had successfully eliminated a TPLF unit in the vicinity of Hawzen and Tembien, two towns in the Tigray region. On 21 November the central government claimed that it had captured the town of Adigrat — located approximately 115 km (70 mi) north of the regional capital — during its advance toward Mekele, as well as the towns of Axum and Adawa. TPLF leaders stated that at least nine civilians were killed during the central government’s attack on the town.

Both sides remain opposed to mediation, despite regional and international actors repeatedly calling for peace talks. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed denied that the central government had made any plans to engage in peace talks with the TPLF following an announcement by the African Union, which stated that the regional bloc had appointed special envoys to mediate the conflict.

The TPLF-imposed state of emergency remains in effect across the Tigray region, as does the state of emergency imposed by the federal government. Roads into and throughout the region remain blocked, and vehicles carrying food, fuel and medical supplies have been unable to enter. Flights to Mekele Alula Aba Nega Airport (HAMK/MQX), Shire Airport (SHC) and Axum Airport (HAAX/AXU) remain suspended. Unverified reports by state-affiliated media sources indicate that TPLF forces destroyed the Axum airport on 23 November.

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