Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, after weeks of conflict, has given Tigrayan forces a 72-hour deadline to surrender.
"We urge you to surrender peacefully within the next 72 hours, recognising that you are at a point of no return," he wrote on Twitter. Ahmed also said that government forces were now "in the third and final phase" of their military operation in the area.
In light of the prime minister’s announcement, the UN urged to ensure the safety of civilians in the area, as the military takes action to ensure that the forces retreated. the clashes that erupted on November 4, is said to have killed hundreds, probably thousands of people and sent about 30,000 people to neighbouring Sudan.
According to a military spokesman, Ethiopian troops plan to surround Mekelle with tanks and may shell the city to force surrender.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front said its forces were digging trenches and standing firm.
Ethiopian forces, that are now aiming at Mekelle, where the rebels are based, have taken down a string of towns during areal bombings and ground fighting.
Rebels have also fired rockets into neighbouring Amhara region and across the border into the nation of Eritrea.
Catherine Sozi, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Ethiopia, told Reuters that she hoped for the guarantee of safety and security of aid workers and the “protection of more than 525,000 civilians (non-combatants) who live in Mekelle”. Sozi has also sought protection for civilian structures like health facilities, schools and water system.
According to rebels, Tigrayans have been marginalised by the government, ever since Ahmed’s government took to the office two years ago. Tigrayans have been removed from senior roles in the government and military and detained several on rights of abuse and corruption charges.
Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Reuters that his forces were resisting a push from the south while also fighting near the northern town of Adigrat after it fell to federal troops.