Ethiopia eyes advance on Tigrayan capital

A moment of silence in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday (November 17) to honor soldiers fighting in the country's northern Tigray region.

But, as well as support for the military, residents like Fitawrari Million are also sad and angry that Ethiopians have been firing on Ethiopians.

"How could they kill their own brother? And their own sisters? This is not our custom."

But this two-week old conflict has no end in sight.

Earlier, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said a three-day ultimatum for Tigrayan forces to surrender had expired.

He's now proceeding with what he calls the "final critical act of law enforcement," a push for Tigray's regional capital Mekelle.

He accuses the local ruling party, the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front, of armed revolt; the TPLF says Tigrayans - who once dominated Ethiopian politics - have been persecuted and purged from Abiy's administration.

The United Nations and governments across Africa and Europe have urged Abiy to embrace talks and even the Nobel committee, which awarded Abiy a peace prize last year, has expressed concern in rare comment on a past laureate's actions.

But Abiy says he will only negotiate when rule of law has been restored to Tigray.

On Monday (November 16) Redwan Hussein, spokesman for the government's Tigray crisis taskforce, said that won't take long.

"It's very much short, would be a short-lived operation whereby the people of Tigray would understand that the culprit had been doing nothing good to Tigray."

But it may be a little more complicated than that.

For one thing, Tigray's leader Debretsion Gebremichael says battles are still raging around a southern town which federal troops claimed to have seized the previous day.

With communications largely down and media barred, it is difficult to verify assertions made by either side.

But Matt Bryden, founder of regional think-tank Sahan, also warns that "heavier fighting is likely to start" as Ethiopian forces approach Mekelle as the Tigrayan fighters could dig in in the more mountainous terrain around the regional capital.

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