Dozens of people were killed last Tuesday when a government airstrike hit a market in another part of Tigray and killed dozens, doctors and witnesses said, in one of the most significant incidents. murderers of the eight month civil war.
Just a day later, the Tigrayan rebels retaliated, shooting down an Ethiopian Air Force C-130 cargo plane as it approached Mekelle. In the days that followed, reports of rebel victories and withdrawals from the Ethiopian government began to mount.
Ethiopian forces are said to have abandoned a number of strategic positions around Adigrat, Abiy Adiy and in several places in southern Tigray. The rebels also say they have captured several thousand Ethiopian soldiers and are holding them as prisoners of war.
Despite Eritrea’s announcement in March that it would withdraw its forces from Tigray, Eritrean troops continued to be a factor in the fighting. Eritrean forces have been spotted by aid workers throughout the Tigray region, from towns in the far northwest to homes in the center of the region, where they have bolstered federal forces loyal to Mr. Abiy for months. Although the Tigrayans seem to have the upper hand, for now, around Mekelle, the picture in the rest of the country is still murky.
It was also unclear whether the diplomatic efforts of other countries were having an effect on the action in Tigray. Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen met several senior British, German, American and Spanish diplomats in Addis Ababa on Saturday, according to two diplomats briefed on the talks. Diplomats said the talks failed to reach consensus on the need for a ceasefire in Tigray.
Getachew Reda, an executive member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray, said in a telephone interview last week that the Tigrayan forces – which have multiplied with thousands of new volunteers – have gone on the offensive, targeting four divisions of the Ethiopian army.
“We launched an offensive against divisions which we believed to be critical,” said Mr. Getachew. “At the same time, they abandoned many towns and villages. “
Declan Walsh reported from Mekelle, Ethiopia, and Simon Marks from Brussels, Belgium.