Ethiopian leaders warned Wednesday they were ready to launch a new offensive against their “enemies” after rebels pushed deeper into Tigray, effectively tearing up a government-declared ceasefire in the war-torn region.
Tigrayan forces this week claimed a series of fresh battlefield gains, two weeks after sweeping through much of the northern region and recapturing Tigray’s capital Mekele in a stunning turnaround eight months into the conflict.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a winner of the Nobel Prize, said the government — which announced its ceasefire on June 28 — chose peace at a “cost” in the hope it would quell fighting, allow farmers to plant harvest, and facilitate aid into the stricken region.
But Ethiopia’s enemies were “unable to rest without conflict” and posed a threat that must be curbed, he said.
“We will defend and repel these attacks by our internal and external enemies, while working to speed up humanitarian efforts,” Abiy said in a statement posted on Twitter.
His warning was echoed by General Bacha Debele of the Ethiopian National Defence Force who said it was “ready to restart the offensive and re-enter the areas occupied” by the Tigrayan rebels, according to state media.
Military forces in the neighbouring region of Amhara that had controlled swathes of Tigray before the war and are fighting in support of the federal army issued similar threats.
Abiy, who won by a landslide in June elections to secure a five-year term, urged Ethiopians to stand behind the army in defence of the nation and resist “outside pressure and internal provocation”.