Wednesday, November 25, 2020

UN Security Council to Hold First Meeting on Tigray Crisis

By Reuters - AFP 

2020/11/24 18:33:40

Tigrayan forces battling Ethiopia's federal government said on Tuesday they "completely destroyed" the army's 21st mechanized division, a day after they claimed they had destroyed a helicopter and a tank.

The statement was made during a television broadcast on Tuesday. A government spokesman did not return calls seeking comment. Reuters has been unable to verify claims by either side since phone and internet connections to the Tigray region are down and access to the area is strictly controlled.

The UN Security Council will on Tuesday hold its first meeting on the conflict in Ethiopia's dissident Tigray region, diplomatic sources said.

The virtual meeting will not be open to the public and it was not yet clear if a statement would be issued afterward, the sources said on Monday.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has ordered the leaders of the northern region of Tigray to surrender ahead of a threatened all-out assault on its capital, Mekele.

Abiy launched the military campaign against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) on November 4, accusing it of attacking two federal military camps in the region, and of seeking to destabilize his government.

Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed, but a communications blackout has made claims from both sides difficult to verify.

UN chief Antonio Guterres called Friday for the opening of humanitarian corridors to assist civilians caught in the fighting, noting that authorities had so far rejected attempts at mediation.

"We are very worried about the situation in Ethiopia," the secretary-general told reporters in New York, warning of a "dramatic humanitarian impact" including on neighboring Sudan.

"We have been asking for the full respect of international humanitarian law and also for the opening of humanitarian corridors and the truces that might be necessary for humanitarian aid to be delivered," he said.

Over 40,000 Ethiopians have fled to neighboring Sudan, the UN's refugee agency said on Monday.

The conflict has spread beyond Tigray, with the TPLF firing rockets into both the neighboring Amhara region and across the border to Eritrea, which Tigrayans accuse of supporting government forces, something Asmara denies.

Redwan told a news conference that the government now controlled most of Tigray and people in captured towns were handing over weapons given them by the TPLF.

Federal forces were ringing Mekele from about 50 kilometers, he added in a text to Reuters.

Tigrayan forces fired rockets on Monday at Bahir Dar, capital of Amhara region whose authorities are supporting the federal offensive, Redwan and residents said. He said the rockets caused no damage.

"So far, I didn't hear of any casualties," said a hotel receptionist of the pre-dawn attack.

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