The conflict in northern Ethiopia has escalated sharply in recent days, as Ethiopian forces began a sweeping offensive in a bid to reverse recent gains by Tigrayan forces, Western officials and Tigrayan leaders said.
U.N. officials said the attack will deepen the humanitarian crisis in a region that is plunging into the world’s worst famine in a decade. With the Ethiopian government blocking aid shipments, some starving Tigrayans are eating leaves to survive.
Senior Western officials broadly confirmed Tigrayan accounts that the assault, which had been anticipated for weeks, started in the Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south. But beyond that, it is hard to get a clear picture of the situation.
A strict communications blackout imposed by the government means few details about the fighting can be independently confirmed. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was sworn in for a second term last week, has declined to comment in recent days.
Speaking by phone, Gen. Tsadkan Gebretensae, a member of the central command of the Tigray forces and its leading strategist, said Ethiopian forces had begun the military operation on Friday with a bombardment of Tigrayan positions using warplanes, artillery and drones.
On Monday, the Ethiopians switched to a ground offensive led by thousands of fighters, to be met by a Tigrayan counteroffensive, he said.