Gains and Losses

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Ethiopian forces captured three towns in Tigray this week, marking an escalation in the nearly two-year-old civil conflict that has caused a humanitarian disaster in the northern region of the country, the BBC reported Tuesday.

The government said the captured towns include the strategic city of Shire, one of the region’s largest cities, and known for its airport and road connections to other major cities, including the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle.

The loss of Shire is a significant blow to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebels, who have been fighting Ethiopian federal troops since November 2020. Even so, the TPLF urged all Tigrayans to keep fighting and insisted that the loss was only temporary.

Following the recent gains, Ethiopian officials announced plans to seize all airports in the northern region and vowed to take “maximum care” to protect civilians from harm.

Meanwhile, diplomats and international organizations are expressing concern about the impact of the war on civilians. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the situation was “spiraling out of control” and demanded hostilities end immediately.

The UN estimates that around 5.4 million people – approximately three-quarters of Tigray’s population – need food aid as the fighting has disrupted supplies.

Analysts noted that Ethiopian forces – aided by neighboring Eritrean troops – could be emboldened to head for the major cities of Axum and Adwa, potentially giving them access to the main highway leading to Mekelle.

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