The Ethiopian Prime minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, has directed the Ethiopian National Defense forces to conclude what he calls “the third and final phase of enforcing the rule of law” as the 72 hours window that he gave to the Tigrayans soldiers, popularly known as the Tigray People Liberation Front(TPLF), had elapsed.
The “third and final phase of enforcing the rule of law” is a coded term for military offensives on the regional capital of the Tigray people, Mekelle.
According to the Prime Minister Abiy, thousands of Tigrayan fighters have surrendered in the last three days; however, he still wants the offensives on the capital to advance.
The Prime Minister said the military would try not to harm civilians in the regional capital Mekelle – a city of more than 500,000 people – and therefore he calls on the residents to stay at home.
“In the final phase, great care will be given to protect innocent civilians from harm. All efforts will be made to ensure that the city of Mekelle, which was built through hard work of our people will not be severely damaged. All precautions will be taken to ensure that heritage sites, places of worship, public facilities, and development institutions and residential areas will not be targetted,” the statement read.
He urged people in Mekelle and the surrounding areas to disarm, stay at home and keep away from military targets.
“We call on the people of Mekelle and its environs to disarm, stay at home and stay away from military targets, and take all necessary precautions,” the statement continued.
Humanitarian workers in Mekelle reported a calm and quiet atmosphere on Thursday, saying there was no indication of any fighting in the area.
Daniel Berhane, who is a Local journalist in the city, told mainstream media that life there is continuing as normal.
The leader of the powerful regional TPLF party, Debretsion Gebremichael, has said Tigray forces are “ready to die in defense of our right to administer our region”.
The TPLF fighters, drawn mostly from a paramilitary unit and a well-drilled local militia, are thought to number about 250,000.
Some analysts fear that the situation could turn into a guerrilla conflict – with the TPLF continuing to mount attacks on government forces even if they take Mekelle.
The international community has been pleading for immediate de-escalation, dialogue and humanitarian access in the region but Abiy has rejected international “interference”.