Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has given Tigrayan regional forces 72 hours to surrender before the military begins an offensive on the regional capital Mekelle.
Mekelle is the regional capital of Tigray, a state in Ethiopia’s northern region. The highland city where the rebels are based has a population of about 500, 000 people. Reports say advancing Ethiopian troops plan to shell the city to force surrender.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), in response has said its forces were digging trenches and standing firm. It has so far refused to surrender its rule of the northern region.
Hundreds have been killed and more than 30,000 refugees have poured into neighboring Sudan since Nov. 4 when the conflict began.
Tigrayan leaders are accused of revolting against central authority and starting the conflict by attacking federal troops in the town of Dansha.
The rebels say his government has marginalized Tigrayans since taking office two years ago, removing them from senior roles in government and the military and detaining many on rights abuse and corruption charges.
So far, attempts by foreign nations for mediation have failed as Prime minister Abiy maintains it is not a conflict or war but a law enforcement operation.
In a statement on Sunday evening, he said “all the necessary precautionary measures have been taken to ensure that civilians are not harmed”.