Ethiopia: New Tigray Offensive in Ethiopia As UN Calls for Government Troop Withdrawal

The UN and human rights groups have warned that seven months of fighting has hampered food security in Tigray, with a real risk of famine (file photo).

Tigrayan forces say they have launched a new offensive in northern Ethiopia, two weeks after the federal government declared a unilateral ceasefire, while the United Nations calls for the "verifiable" withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the region.

A spokesman said Tuesday that the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) had taken control of Alamata, the main town in southern Tigray, after launching an assault the day before.

Fighting is also taking place in western Tigray, an area where the United States has raised concerns about ethnic cleansing.

"We promised to liberate every square inch of Tigray," Getachew Reda, a Tigray spokesperson, told the French AFP news agency, adding that fighters were still "in hot pursuit" of pro-government fighters.

The claims could not be confirmed because communications were largely down in the area. The Ethiopian military has not responded to a request for comment.

Calls for troop withdrawals

The TDF initially derided the government's unilateral ceasefire at the end of last month, after the interim government fled in the face of a rebel advance on Mekele, the capital of the region.

Rebel leaders later said they accepted the ceasefire in principle, but with strict conditions, including the withdrawal of Ethiopian and foreign forces from the region.

Ethiopia said Eritrean troops had started to evacuate Tigray in April, but the United Nations said there was no evidence of a withdrawal.

The UN rights council on Tuesday approved a resolution brought by the European Union expressing deep concern about abuses the Tigray region, and calling for the "the swift and verifiable withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the Tigray region", which it said are "exacerbating the conflict".

The new offensive was launched two days after the publication of results from a nationwide election last month giving Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed a landslide victory, despite the ongoing Tigray conflict, which has damaged his international standing.

Western powers react

Western powers demanding the ceasefire be accompanied by access for aid groups in the region, where people are reportedly dying of hunger.

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that the bloc should be ready to use sanctions on Ethiopia as a way to push for humanitarian access.

"The option of restrictive measures must be on the table," he told a news conference after EU foreign met to discuss the conflict.

The US, a traditional ally of Ethiopia, reiterated Monday its finding that "acts of ethnic cleansing" had taken place in western Tigray, and called on all armed parties to protect civilians.

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