Ethiopia warns civilians against ‘no mercy’ in Tigray offensive

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NAIROBI, KENYA – The Ethiopian military warns 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 to human rights Watch Sunday said it could violate international law. “From now on, the fighting will be a tank battle,” Colonel Dejene Tsegaye’s spokesman 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 should be informed that they need to protect themselves from heavy artillery. ”

He accused the Tigray rulers of hiding among the population 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 Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for a quarter of a century before Abiy took office, introduced dramatic political reforms and ousted TPLF leaders.

Communications and transport to the Tigray region being almost completely interrupted, it is difficult to verify the claims of the warring parties. Meanwhile, a vast humanitarian crisis unfolds, with the United Nations declaring that around 2 million people are in urgent need of assistance as food, fuel, medical supplies and more are desperately lacking.

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