Additional federal military personnel were deployed to the northern Tigray Region on Friday, November 6, as clashes with regional security forces continued for a third day. Defense chiefs announced that units around the country had been mobilized for the operations in Tigray, but it was not immediately clear how many have been deployed to the region. The announcement came despite calls from multiple countries and UN Secretary-General António Guterres for de-escalation in the region following the sudden outbreak of hostilities on Wednesday, November 4.
Initial clashes in the region on Wednesday were reportedly focused around the main bases used by Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) -aligned forces in the northwest of the region, particularly the Dansheha, Humera, and Kekar areas. Clashes were also reported outside the regional capital Mekele, where TPLF-aligned forces allegedly attacked federal military bases Tuesday, November 3, triggering the offensive. However, fighting on Friday was reported to have shifted into western areas of the border between the Tigray and Amhara regions around the town of Abdurafi, close to the border with Sudan. Fighter aircraft were also reported to have been operating over and around Mekele on Thursday, November 5, although it is currently unclear whether any airstrikes were conducted.
Communications in the Tigray Region, including internet and mobile phone networks, remain blocked as of Friday, limiting information on the military operations coming out of the region. Overland travel restrictions were also reported in Mekele, where local authorities have banned civilian vehicles from the roads. Similar restrictions are likely to be in place elsewhere in the Tigray region. Airspace over the region currently remains closed and flights to Mekele (MQX), Shire (SHC), and Axum (AXU) have been suspended, although those from Gondar (GDQ) resumed on Thursday.
Further military clashes are likely in the Tigray region in the medium term, with a realistic possibility of civilian harm in major flashpoint areas.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he had ordered a military offensive in the Tigray Region on Wednesday, after accusing security forces aligned with the regional Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of attacking Ethiopian National Defense Forces' (ENDF) positions in the state. The 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 are advised to shelter in place, monitor developments in their area of operations, and liaise with appropriate consular authorities. Travelers should avoid the Tigray Region and northern areas of the Amhara region whilst hostilities continue and heed any directives issued by local authorities.
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