“The last peaceful gate which had remained open for the TPLF clique to walk through have now been firmly closed,” the statement read, referring to the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Abiy claimed “thousands of Tigray Special Forces and militia members” surrendered in that time — a claim CNN has been unable to independently verify due to a communications blackout in the region. Internet, mobile phones and landlines are all down.
The Ethiopian federal forces have been notified to conclude the “final phase” of capturing the regional capital of Mekelle. On Saturday, the military said Mekelle would be surrounded by tanks and warned civilians to be aware of artillery as the military would have “no mercy for the junta.”
“Great care will be given to protect innocent civilians from harm,” Abiy wrote. “We call on the people of Mekelle and its environs to disarm, stay at home and stay away from military targets, and take all necessary precautions.”
“I urge Ethiopian leaders to do everything possible to protect civilians, uphold human rights & ensure humanitarian access,” UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres tweeted on Wednesday.
The state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which described itself as an “independent national” institution, also stressed the importance of protecting civilians.
“The EHRC stresses that extreme caution to avoid civilian harm is of even greater importance, now, at this stage of the conflict,” said EHRC chief Daniel Bekele in a tweet.