By HICGI News Agency Updated at 2059 GMT on Tuesday June 29, 2021 10:14
Ethiopia’s government has declared a unilateral cease-fire in its Tigray region as the area’s former governing party and troops entered the regional capital, Mekelle, prompting cheers from residents.
The national government made the announcement on state media late Monday, saying the cease-fire would take effect immediately. It follows nearly eight months of conflict in the region.
News Reporters said they have not seen government soldiers in the city since Sunday.
Rebel troops from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which previously governed the region, announced on the party radio that their forces have entered Mekelle. Reports from the region say residents celebrated in the streets.
“We are 100% in control of Mekelle,” Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesperson, told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday.
Ethiopia Declares Unilateral Cease-fire in Tigray Tigray forces enter the regional capital, sparking celebrations by residents
Clashes that occurred on the outskirts of Mekelle have since ended, Reda said.
“Our forces are still in hot pursuit to the south and east to continue until every square inch of territory is cleared of the enemy,” he said.
Reuters reported that it could not independently confirm that the TPLF was in full control of the capital.
Ethiopia’s prime minister, its military, neighboring Eritrea’s information ministry and a government task force on Tigray did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. It was not clear if Eritrean troops were still in the region. Tigray residents have accused Eritrean troops of carrying out atrocities in the area.
Agence France-Presse reports the TPLF launched a major offensive last week and on Monday cited an interim government official who said the fighters were closing in on the city when government troops left.
Monday’s developments come after the Tigray interim administration, appointed by the federal government, called for a cease-fire to allow aid to be delivered to thousands of people facing famine in the region.
A government statement carried by state media said the cease-fire would allow farmers to till their land and aid groups to operate without the presence of military troops. It said the cease-fire would last until the end of the farming season but did not give a specific date. The country’s main planting season lasts through September.
The United Nations says the nearly eight-month-old conflict in Tigray has pushed 350,000 people to the brink of famine, calling it the world’s worst famine crisis in a decade.
UN: Deaths From Starvation Reported in Ethiopia’s TigrayEthiopia’s UN envoy says it is ‘completely unacceptable’ that famine is being used to exert ‘undue pressure’ on his government
The United States, Ireland and Britain late Monday called for an emergency public meeting of the U.N. Security Council. The session could be held Friday, but the date and time are up to France, which currently holds the council presidency. Other countries could vote to nullify the meeting, however.
On Monday, the United Nations children’s agency said Ethiopian soldiers entered its office in Mekelle and dismantled satellite communications equipment.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement, “This act violates U.N. privileges and immunities … We are not, and should never be, a target.”
Violence in the Tigray region had intensified last week after a military airstrike on a town north of Mekelle killed more than 60 people.
The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, accused Ethiopian authorities of blocking ambulances from reaching victims of the strike.
An Ethiopian military spokesman said only combatants, not civilians, were hit.
Fighting between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF broke out in November, leaving thousands of civilians dead and forcing more than 2 million people from their homes. Troops from Eritrea, to the north, and Amhara, a neighboring region to the south of Tigray, also entered the conflict in support of the Ethiopian government.
HICGI News Agency contributed to this report, some information provided by Reuters AFP & VOA