The UN on Tuesday expressed alarm at the “large-scale humanitarian crisis” developing on the border between Sudan and Ethiopia, where thousands of people flee daily fighting in the breakaway region of Tigray.
Worried about the risks of destabilization in the Horn of Africa, the international community is exerting increasing pressure for the completion of this military operation launched by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who said on Tuesday that it will enter its “final” phase .
On November 4, Abiy Ahmed sent the federal army to storm Tigray, in the north of the country, after months of tension with regional authorities of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF).
Influx of refugees
According to a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 4,000 people have been crossing the border with Sudan every day since November 10, so far around 27,000 people.
“This is an influx like we have not seen in the past two decades in this part of the country,” said Babar Baloch, spokesperson for UNHCR in Geneva.
This mass of people “is rapidly overwhelming the capacity of humanitarian organizations on the ground,” he added.
The blackout imposed on the region and travel restrictions for journalists make it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.
Ethiopian refugees in the Qadarif region of eastern Sudan on November 17, 2020. [Marwan Ali – Keystone/AP photo]
The government carried out airstrikes across Tigray, officially targeting military objectives. On the ground, the fighting, which killed several hundred people, concentrated in the west but offensives were reported in the north and south.
In the Oum Raquba camp, reopened urgently in eastern Sudan, 80 km from the border with Ethiopia, several thousand Ethiopian refugees who arrived from Tigray are already wandering: “I was living with my three daughters. the shells started to rain on our house, panicked, they fled in the dark and I did not find them, “said Ganet Gazerdier, 75, who lived in Humera, in western Tigray.
Offensive on the regional capital
On Tuesday morning, Abiy Ahmed said that the deadline given a few days earlier to soldiers from TPLF forces to defect to the federal army had expired, paving the way for the “final” phase of his military operation: “Since the deadline has passed, the final law enforcement operations will be carried out in the coming days, “he wrote on Facebook.
On Tuesday evening, the Ethiopian government released a statement claiming to control several towns in southern Tigray and that its forces are “advancing towards Mekele”, the regional capital, and are located in Mehoni, 126 km away. South.
Heavy fighting took place in the Alamata region (south) as well as in the city of Shire (north) which is home to camps for thousands of Eritrean refugees, according to diplomatic and humanitarian sources.
The federal army had previously claimed to control western Tigray as well as the locality of Alamata. But the Tigrayan authorities say they are holding on: “This campaign [militaire] cannot be completed. As long as the invading army is on our land, the fight will continue. They cannot silence us by force, ”Tigray President Debretsion Gebremichael said on Tuesday.
The latter also claimed that an airstrike had targeted Mekele on Monday, “killing and wounding civilians”.
On Tuesday, Addis Ababa denied in a statement this information, saying the raid had targeted “crucial TPLF targets”, “outside” Mekele.
Neither the details of this raid nor the human toll could be verified immediately.