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Source: Globe News Net, August 29, 2021

More than two years of political strife between Tigray on the one hand, and Ethiopia’s federal government and allies on the other hand ended in one of the bloodiest wars of the 21st century also resulting in the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.

On November 4, an all-out war was ignited following a conflict between Northern Command of Ethiopia National Defense Forces and Tigray’s forces.

Ethiopia’s government and its foreign(Eritrea, Somalia) and domestic(Ethiopian Regional States) allies, helped by UAE’s fighter drones, were able to drive Tigray’s forces and Tigray’s elected regional government out of the capital city, Mekelle, quickly.

Ethiopia’s government declared victory on November 28.

Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed

Tigray’s forces later announed that they were ending conventional war and changing their military strategy. That was the beginning of a guerrilla warfare.  Sporadic guerrilla insurgencies and occasionally large-scale fighting continued for months.

On the other hand, atrocities on civilians in Tigray by Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Amhara forces became rampant. Massacres, rape, destruction, and deliberate starvation of the entire population were documented by UN bodies and international rights organizations. Amhara forces committed Ethnic cleansing in the Western part of Tigray, driving out the entire Tigrayan population, and massacring a lot among them. Large scale massacres were documented in Axum, Dengelet, MahbereDego, Bora, DebreAbay, Humera, Irob, Tembien, Selekleka e.t.c by various right organizations and international media. Graphic videos of civilian massacres and rape cases became abundant.

Ethiopian soldiers executing civilians and throwing their bodies off the cliff, and videoing their action in ecstasy.
Mahbere-Dego, Tigray, Mid January, 2021.

This put young men and women in Tigray with no option but to join the armed struggle.

Tigray’s forces regrouped, and grew in size and determination over the next weeks and months. It become certain that Ethiopia’s November 28 declaration of “full victory” was premature.

Tigray Defence Forces(TDF) launched an offensive named “Operation Alula”, on the early hours of June 18,  against Ethiopian National Defence Forces(ENDF), Eritrean Defence Forces(EDF) and Amhara forces. It was the largest offensive in almost 7 months.

In the Central front, TDF attacked 7 ENDF divisions(divisions 11, 20, 21, 24, 25, 31) and a few EDF battalions between Gijjet and Samre. TDF claimed to have completely annihilated Divisions 11 and 31, and partially destroyed the rest. TDF also seized numerous artilleries, vehicles, communication radios. Division 11’s Commander-in-chief, Col. Hussein was captured. TDF announced to have killed Commanders of Division 21 and 31 during the battles.

Also On the same front, TDF opened large scale offensive between Al’asa –AbiAdi-Yechila-Abergele. On the Ethiopian side, 5 divisions of ENDF(Division 24, 25, 31, 23, 12), a few battalions of EDF, Amhara militia, Amhara special forces, Ethiopia’s Republican Guard, few regiments of Oromia and Afar Special Forces participated. A military depot in Yechila was seized by TDF.

In the Southern Front, TDF attacked Divisions 21 and 1 of ENDF, Amhara special forces, Amhara militia, in and around Bala, Korem- Sekota line. Fala, a strategic area between Korem and Sekota was captured by TDF. TDF declared that it had destroyed 6 regiments of ENDF. A military depot in Adi-Arequay was seized by TDF along with military armaments, communication radios and 100 military vehicles.

On the Eastern Front, on 21/06/2021, 4 battalions of of ENDF’s divisions 13 and 20 and few battalions of EDF left Adigrat and headed southwards. They were joined by additional ENDF and EDF battalions from Bizet, Freweyni, Edaga-Hamus. They were confronted by TDF at Beteharyat, Dibdibo, around Sheba leather(Wukro) and between Agulae and Mai-Mekden(Beles).  The TDF also attacked Agulae military base.

TDF announced that a quarter of ENDF’s army was destroyed during the first 3 days of the fighting.

A TDF logistics personnel registering light military armaments snatched from ENDF soldiers in Central front

In retaliation to the series of defeats, Ethiopia’s fighter jet bombarded a busy market place, “Togoga”, 25 kilometers west of the capital of the region, Mekelle, on 22/06/2013. Health bureau and local officials reported 64 civilians had been killed and 180 injured. Ethiopia’s forces blocked the injured from seeking health service; they also blocked ambulances from going to the site to pick injured civilians.

Victims of the market place bombardment getting medical support in Mekelle Referra Hospital[FB]

On the next day (23/06/2021), Ethiopia’s C-130 Hercules aircraft was gunned down by TDF’s anti-aircraft unit around Gijjet in Tigray. A video released the same day confirmed just that.

By June 26, it was clear that the war was ending with ENDF’s crushing defeat. At least 6 divisions(11, 21, 23, 24, 25, 31) were reported to have been decimated; multiple other divisions were partially to mostly incapacitated. TDF sources reported that more than 28,000 enemy soldiers had been killed; and more than 6000 soldiers captured as prisoners of war. Hundreds of military vehicles, numerous heavy and small military armaments, communications radios were seized by TDF.

Also on this date, reports of signs of ENDF fleeing Tigray resurfaced. Top Ethiopian military Generals and interim government officials fled Mekelle north towards Eritrea. Most others took the Afar road.

ENDF’s disorderly retreat was intensified on June 27. TDF had already narrowed its radius around Mekelle. ENDF was forcibly taking private pickups to transport its soldiers and logistics out of Mekelle.

On the early hours of June 28, Alula Aba-Nega airport fall to TDF. ENDF’s disorderly retreat was even more apparent this time; retreating ENDF soldiers killed two young men in Mekelle out of frustration.  ENDF was barely seen inside Mekelle after 10:00 AM. TDF fighters started moving in to Mekelle, beginning at around midday. The retreating ENDF army, along with more than 200 vehicles, various armaments and other logistics was stopped by TDF around Ashegoda past Mekelle, and was asked to surrender; upon refusal, was confronted by TDF. Significant portion of it was crushed; large number of military vehicles, armaments were snatched by TDF.

Aftermath of one of the heaviest battles in Tigray[TDF]

In the subsequent hours of June 28, its was certain that TDF had effective control of all Mekelle. A jubiliant mood in Mekelle. Also on this date, the elected government of Tigray was reinstated.

Ethiopia’s government, which managed to control Mekelle after 24 days of fighting, was forced to leave the city by a fascinating 10 days TDF operation(“operation Alula”), defeated and humiliated.

A Jubilant mood in Mekelle after it was taken back by TDF[AFP]

On the late hours of June 28,  a statement by federal government appointed “Tigray Regional Interim Government” said that is was calling for a “humanitarian ceasefire”.  Ethiopia’s governemnt 20 minutes later came with a statement saying that it was “accepting Tigray Regional Interim government’s request for unilateral humanitarian ceasfire”.

A bridge over the Tekeze river connecting Gondar – Shire was blown up by ASF on July 1 to halt TDF’s advance; additional two bridges were blown up on the next day (July 2) by ASF. Various international organizations confirmed that ASF did it.

A main bridge along Tekeze river blown up by ASF.

Ethiopian prime minister, denied his defeat, and bluffed that he “had diminished Mekelle to a no significance, to the level of Beshasha”(his own small home village)”. He also admitted that “freeing Mekelle from the ‘Junta’ or governing Tigray was not his mission, but destroying it”.

On 03/07/2021, various international media showed more than 7000 prisoners of war being transfered to a prison center in Mekelle where they will be kept under custody.

Captive Ethiopian soldiers walk towards the Mekele Rehabilitation Center in Mekelle CREDIT: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/ AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

On 04/07/2021, the government of State of Tigray announced its readiness for negotiated ceasefire, lying out 7 preconditions.

Despite the prime minister’s “humanitarian ceasefire”, reports were coming out showing that new reinforcement troops were moving towards Western Tigray, Raya and Afar. Arbitrary detention of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa and other parts in Ethiopia worsened. Businesses owned by Tigrayans were being closed in waves.

Amhara regional goverment officials made it clear that they were not leaving the places they illegally annexed, and that they are going to “fight to the last bullet”. As of 06/07/2021, it was apparent that Amhara has taken the front lead in mobilizing armed militias, polices and special forces of theirs and other regional states in Ethiopia.

On 07/07/2021, new reinforcement ethiopian National Defenese Forces, Amhara special forces, Amhara militias, special police and militia forces from Sidama, Oromia, Somali, Debub, Diredawa, Gamleballa were moving towards Western Tigray, Raya and the Afar-Tigray border.

After days of intense fighting under the banner of “operation mothers”, TDF managed to take back Korem on 12/07/2021, and Alamata on 13/07/2021.  Both towns had been under Amhara’s control for 8 months following the war.

Tanks captured by Tigray’s forces from ENDF at the Kobo-Woldiya battle[TDF]

That means 25 days after the launch of Operation Alula, TDF managed to drive out Federal and regional forces from almost 70 % of Tigray. But, western Tigray remained at the hand of Amhara forces.

On 16/07/2021, TDF freed 1000 prisoners of war in the presence of ICRC; additional more than 5000 prisoners of war remained under TDF’s custody, reports showed.

Despite the primine minister’s repeated claim that the retreat was “humanitarian ceasefire”, passage of humanitarian aid to Tigray has been almost totally blocked; only 320 trucks were allowed to pass to Tigray in two months; Tigray needed more than 5000 trucks during this period. During the UN Security Council open debate on Tigray conducted on July 2, Mrs. Linda Thomas, USA representative to the UN indicated that Ethiopian government’s ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ was not genuine, and that Tigray was put under siege.  Similarly, On 06/07/2021, EU crisis-management commissioner Janez Lenarčič said at the European Parliament meeting “This is not a ceasefire, it’s a siege and starvation is being used as a weapon of war; the siege has seen Ethiopia close Tigray’s borders, ban flights, destroy road and rail infrastructure, cut telecommunications, and prevent the entry of international aid workers.”

In general, Ethiopia’s army left Tigray defeated; Ethiopia’s governement wanted to take its revenge out by sieging the entire Tigray, and starving the entire population to death.

TDF, determined to break the siege, and drive the invaders out from every square inch of Tigray, has expanded its military operations in to Amhara and Afar Regions. After a fierce battle in Kobo-Woldiya, TDF was able to crush significant portion of Ethiopia’s National Defence Army, Amhara’s and other regional forces, and seize massive military armament. That forced Ethiopia’s government to call all able Ethiopians to arm themselves and join Ethiopian army. Amhara government already did that call a week earlier. 

TDF, a regional forces of a small region in Ethiopia, is now in control of key strategic areas in Wollo and South Gonder, scoring massive victories against an army 6-7 times its size, according to sources.

TDF soldiers had to use simple techniques like this to cross Tekeze river after the main bridge was destroyed by ASF.

TDF also proved to have an unparallaled strict military discipiline, something that is rare in a country whose forces are accussed of grave atrocities including genocide on Tigrayans. This helped TDF get popular support even within the part of the Amhara that it now controls.

This has to be recorded as one of the most astonishing military miracles in the modern times, and taught in military academies in the world.

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