Tigray Rebels Claim Ethiopia, Eritrea Launched ‘Massive Four-Pronged Offensive’

The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), an Ethiopian insurgent militant group, claimed on Thursday that Ethiopian federal forces and allied Eritrean troops launched a “massive four-pronged offensive” against the northwestern part of the Tigray region.

The Ethiopian government and the TPLF have been keeping to an uneasy ceasefire for the past five months, following almost two years of civil war.

According to the TPLF, Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed and his Eritrean allies launched a “full-scale” attack at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday. The TPLF claimed government troops and munitions were ferried to the conflict zone by civilian airliners.

“Tigray’s army is reliably ready to repulse this offensive, and transition into a counteroffensive to liberate occupied sovereign Tigrayan territory and return out displaced people to their homes,” the Tigrayan militant group said, denouncing the government’s action as a “genocidal assault.”

Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck on a road near Agula, north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia on May 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

The Abiy government responded by accusing the TPLF of breaking the ceasefire by attacking three towns in Amhara, a neighboring region with its own ethnic group. 

The government also accused the TPLF, which it considers a “terrorist organization,” of trying to smuggle in weapons from Sudan. The Ethiopian Air Force said it shot down a plane loaded with arms for the Tigrayan insurgents last week.

Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters arrive after eight hours of walking in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on June 29, 2021. - Rebel fighters in Ethiopia's war-hit Tigray seized control of more territory on June 29, 2021, one day after retaking the local capital and vowing to drive all "enemies" out of the region. (Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP) (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)

Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters arrive after eight hours of walking in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on June 29, 2021. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)

Government forces also began hitting Tigrayan targets with air strikes last week, including an attack on the Tigrayan capital city of Mekelle that was denounced by UNICEF for hitting a kindergarten and killing several children.

Tigrayan, Ethiopian, and Eritrean troops have all been accused of atrocities during the two-year civil war. Residents of the Tigray region say the new offensive also appears to include Amhara militia. The Tigrayans accuse the Amhara of ethnically cleansing them from western lands that rightfully belong to Tigray.

Tigray has become a humanitarian disaster area during the war, with severe shortages of food, medicine, and fuel. The United Nations warns that famine could be declared due to drought conditions in East Africa.

The task of feeding Tigrayans was made more difficult last week when the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) accused the TPLF of stealing over half a million liters of fuel that were supposed to be used for distributing food aid:

Negotiations between Abiy’s government and the TPLF for a more durable cease-fire appear to have deadlocked because the TPLF said essential services cut off by federal troops had to be restored in order for talks to continue, while the government rejected all preconditions. The African Union sent former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo to serve as a mediator, but the TPLF accused him of siding with Abiy.

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