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Ethiopia enters 'final phase' of operation in Tigray region, says Prime Minister

November 26, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Ethiopia has entered the "final phase" of a "law enforcement" military operation in the northern restive region of Tigray after a 72-hour deadline to surrender expired, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted.

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN)Ethiopia has entered the "final phase" of a "law enforcement" military operation in the northern restive region of Tigray after a 72-hour deadline to surrender expired, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted in a statement on Thursday.

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.

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. "

The Ethiopian government had previously denied bombing civilian areas and accused TPLF forces of sheltering in schools, churches and mosques.

International leaders have repeatedly expressed grave concern for the disruption of humanitarian access and for violence against civilians during fighting in Mekelle.

"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 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.

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