Addis Ababa – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says he is launching the “finale phase” of the army’s operation in Tigray with an attack on the regional capital, Mekelle.
He said the military would try not to harm civilians and urged people in the city to stay at home.
It comes after a deadline he gave for Tigray fighters to surrender on Wednesday.
The TPLF party, which controls Tigray, has vowed to keep fighting.
Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed and thousands have been forced from their homes.
However, details of the fighting are hard to confirm because all phone, mobile and internet communications with the Tigray region have been cut.
Ethiopia has so far rejected any attempts to mediate, saying the conflict is an internal matter and Ahmed’s government is engaged in a law enforcement mission in Tigray.
Prime Minister Ahmed has ordered the Ethiopian military to launch an offensive on Mekelle – a city of about 500, 000 people – in the “third and final phase” of the federal government’s military campaign against the TPLF.
Ahmed said “great care” would be taken to protect civilians and “all efforts” would be made to limit damage to Mekelle.