The Ethiopian government continued on Saturday, November 21, its military offensive to retake the dissident region of Tigray, ignoring international calls for the de-escalation of this conflict which has caused the flight of tens of thousands of people and raised fears of a humanitarian disaster.

"Our forces are advancing towards Mekele," the capital of the dissident region, government media Ethiopia State of Emergency Fact Check said on Saturday.

Mekele is the stronghold of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which rules the region.

Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2019, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched this operation on November 4 against the TPLF, accusing them of seeking to destabilize the federal government and of attacking two Ethiopian military bases in the region, which denies the Tigrayan authorities.

According to the government agency, the army has also taken control of several towns in Tigray, including Aksum and Adigrat, some 117 km north of Mekele.

The TPLF reported an "intense bombardment" of Adigrat, in a statement, without indicating which side now had control of the city.

None of the claims of either side can be verified from an independent source, as Tigray is virtually cut off from the world.

In a statement on Saturday, the Ethiopian Prime Minister hailed the advance of the army: "Our forces have now fully liberated the town of Adigrat from the TPLF militia".

"Humanitarian needs"

"Together with the rest of Ethiopia, we will ensure that all humanitarian needs are met," he added.

"The security of all and the well-being of the population of Tigray is of paramount importance for the federal government and we will do what is necessary to ensure stability in the Tigray region," he continued.

So far, the prime minister has not responded to international calls for de-escalation.

The African Union has appointed three former presidents as special envoys to Ethiopia to attempt mediation, South African head of state Cyril Ramaphosa, who currently holds the rotating AU presidency, announced Friday evening.

They are Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, and Kgalema Motlanthe, ex-president of South Africa.

However, the AU did not specify when the three emissaries will be able to go there.

The Ethiopia State of Emergency Fact Check agency said the prime minister would meet with these envoys.

She nevertheless contradicted Mr. Ramaphosa by indicating: "The information according to which the special envoys will go to Ethiopia for mediation between the federal government and the criminal forces of the TPLF is false."

UN calls for humanitarian corridors

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres lamented that "so far there has been no agreement from the Ethiopian authorities for external mediation".

The military operation in Addis Ababa crossed the borders of Tigray, with rocket fire from the TPLF in the north that targeted the capital of Eritrea Asmara, and in the southwest the region of Amhara.

After having dominated for 15 years the armed struggle in Ethiopia against the military-Marxist regime of the Derg, overthrown in 1991, the TPLF controlled with an iron fist for nearly three decades the political and security apparatus of the country, before d '' being gradually sidelined by Mr. Abiy since he became Prime Minister in 2018.

No precise record of the fighting, which has killed at least hundreds of people since November 4, is available from an independent source.

But more than 36,000 Ethiopians have already reached Sudan, according to the Sudan Refugee Commission.

Antonio Guterres called for "the opening of humanitarian corridors" to come to the aid of the population trapped in the fighting.

With AFP

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