Ethiopian authorities suspended commercial flights operating via Mekele Airport (MQX), Gondar Airport (GDQ), Shire Airport (SHC), and Axum Airport (AXU) on Wednesday, November 4. Flight tracking sources indicate that several flights from Gondar to Addis Ababa have been cancelled amid the closure of airspace over the Tigray region, but it is currently unclear when these will resume. Flights from Bahir Dar Airport (BJR), 100km (62 miles) south of Gondar, are believed to still be operating but several have been delayed on Wednesday.
Additionally, the Ethiopian government has declared a six-month state of emergency in the Tigray region after forces aligned with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) allegedly targeted Ethiopian National Defense Forces' (ENDF) positions in Tigray region on Tuesday night, November 3. Fighting has also been reported in Soroka and western Tigray, although details remain unclear. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has ordered the ENDF orders to launch a military offensive against TPLF in the regional state. The TPLF forces based Dansheha in the northwest of the region have since reportedly deployed in the Raya and Welkait areas of the state. Internet and mobile communication services have been shut down regionally in the Tigray region as of 01:00 (local time) on Wednesday and information on the offensive is likely to remain limited in the medium term as the government is largely able to control reporting on the situation.
Further security operations and clashes are likely in Tigray region in the near term and disruptions to transportation and communications services are highly likely in the surrounding regions.
Wednesday's operation follows two years of escalating tensions between the TPLF and the federal government in Addis Ababa, which they had previously dominated before the appointment of Abiy as prime minister in 2018, amid claims that the region was being marginalized by his sweeping reforms program. However, tensions reached a high point in September when the TPLF staged their own regional elections in the Tigray region in defiance of a decision by the government to suspend national polls due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The federal government subsequently declared the vote illegal and the upper house of Ethiopia's parliament voted to withhold budgetary subsidies to Tigray in early October. Amid the rising tensions, regional authorities also issued a statement on Tuesday, November 3, accusing Addis Ababa of planning a war in the Tigray region.
Those in the Tigray region and planning to travel via the closed airports are advised to monitor the situation, confirm flight itineraries, review contingency and evacuation plans, remain vigilant for security operations and militant activity, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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