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Timeline of the Tigray conflict

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This is an account of the military engagements of the Tigray conflict, an ongoing armed conflict in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia that began in early November 2020.

November 2020


2 November


Debretsion Gebremichael stated to journalists that the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) planned to attack Tigray Region.

4 November


On the morning of 4 November 2020, Tigray regional security forces, loyal to the ruling Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) launched a surprise attack on the Northern Command of the ENDF in Mekelle, the capital city of the Tigray region and other Northern Command bases in the Tigray region. A senior member of the TPLF central committee, Sekoutoure Getachew, confirmed that a "pre-emptive strike" had been carried out in "self-defence". During the attack, several people were said to have been killed, including destroyed properties, while others sustained injuries, and according to the Ethiopian government, the base was looted of light and heavy weapons.
Subsequently, Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, declared that a military offensive would be launched to restore the rule of law and central government authority. A state of emergency in the region was declared for the 6 months following this attack. Electricity, telephone and internet services in Tigray were shut down by the Federal authorities, though claims were made that the TPLF itself had shut them down. NetBlocks reported a subnational drop in Ethiopia of about 15% in internet connectivity at 01:00 East Africa Time. The Tigray Regional Administration threatened to retaliate to any form of attack, as they prohibited all aspects of transportation, including flights.
Following the shutdown of telephone and internet services in Tigray, Amnesty International urged the Ethiopian authorities to quickly restore communications so as to respect people's rights regarding freedom of expression. The UN also urged an urgent de-escalation of the growing conflict in the region.

5 November


On 5 November 2020, Debretsion Gebremichael, Chief Administrator of the Tigray Region, claimed that Tigrayan forces had seized most of the weapons at the Ethiopian Military's Northern Command headquarters. Debretsion also stated that the Northern Command had defected to the Tigrayan side, though this claim was denounced by the Ethiopian government as "false information", and that the Ethiopian Air Force was bombing areas near Mekelle, the capital of Tigray.

6 November


On 6 November 2020, Abiy disclosed that his administration had launched an airstrike against the forces of the fortified Tigray region in several locations. According to Abiy's announcement, rockets and other weapons were badly damaged, preventing Tigrayan Forces (TPLF) from carrying out a substantial response on civilians. However, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accused the Tigray People's Liberation Front of "criminal hubris and intransigence", claiming they rejected the federal government's efforts at "mediation, reconciliation, dialogue". Moreover, Sudan closed its borders with Ethiopia and the United Nations called for immediate de-escalation of tensions and peaceful resolution to the conflict.

7 November


On 7 November 2020, the Ethiopian parliament voted to endorse the creation of an interim government for the northern Tigray region, in order to avoid the outbreak of a civil war in the country, as the conflict intensified in the region. The Tigray government was declared to be illicit, during the emergency session held by the parliament. The declaration was made by the House of Federation, one of the Ethiopian parliamentary chambers, in line with the law. Separately, 10 city officials in the capital were detained, over allegations of terrorism, the mayor of Addis Ababa, Adanech Abebe, announced.

8 November


On 8 November 2020, as the Ethiopian military's offensive in the northern Tigray region entered its fifth day, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the replacement of several high-ranking officials within his government. Abiy's head of intelligence, army chief and foreign minister were replaced, as the military resumed new rounds of airstrikes. Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen filled the position of foreign minister, while deputy army chief Birhanu Jula was promoted to army chief of staff. The Former regional leader of Amhara, Temesgen Tiruneh was appointed as the new head of intelligence. Abiy did not reveal his rationale behind making the changes to his administration's military and intelligence office.

9 November


On 9 November 2020, the leadership of the Tigray Region claimed that more than 10 airstrikes had been carried out against them by Ethiopian federal government. Hundreds of people were believed to have died in the conflict, according to government sources. At the same time, the Ethiopian army was reported to have lost hundreds of its personnel in the original battle in Dansha. That night, 600 civilians, mostly Amharans and Welkait, were killed in a massacre in the town of Mai Kadra using machetes and knives by local militias and police loyal to the TPLF, according to preliminary investigations by Amnesty International and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Alternate accounts of the massacre have been presented by Tigrayan refugees interviewed by Reuters blaming Amhara militias for the massacre.

10 November


On 10 November Ethiopian Defense Forces seized parts of Tigray, including Humera Airport. Several Tigrayan troops were said to have surrendered to the Ethiopian military during the takeover of the airport. Tigray Region President Debretsion Gebremichael reported that the Eritrean Army had launched attacks on the northern border, which was labeled as "false information" by Major General Mohammed Tessema. At least 2,500 Ethiopians had reportedly fled from northern Tigray to neighboring Sudan. According to Alsir Khaled, the head of Sudan's refugee agency in eastern Kassala town, many Ethiopian soldiers were among the refugees who fled to Sudan.

11 November


Refugees fleeing to Sudan increased significantly on 11 November 2020, with about 10,000 refugees having crossed the border since hostilities started. No further news of any military advances from either side was reported on Wednesday.
=== 12 November ===
Amnesty International reported massacres taking place in the Tigray Region. Amnesty provided preliminary information on the suspected perpetrators of the massacres. Witnesses blamed the Tigray People's Liberation Front for the "horrific tragedy" taking place in Mai Kadra. Airstrikes continued to hit the region after Abiy Ahmed blamed the TPLF of committing war crimes. A group of investigators were sent by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to Mai Kadra to investigate the mass killings there.
The ENDF claimed late in November to have gained control of Humera on 12 November. Massacres of ethnic Tigrayans in Humera were later reported by refugees who had fled Humera.

13 November


On 13 November, the Ethiopian Parliament appointed the Minister of Education Mulu Nega to replace Debretsion Gebremichael as the president of the Tigray Region.
Pro-TPLF media circulated a claim by Debretsion that the Ethiopian government had bombed the Tekeze Dam, cutting off power to the region. This was denied by the government, which said that the surge from the reservoir would have been catastrophic and immediately noticeable.
The UN refugee agency stated that the number of Ethiopians fleeing into Sudan had reached more than 14,500.

14 November


UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned the Tigray conflict could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa. Overnight, rocket attacks were reported in Gondar Airport, which was slightly damaged, and Bahir Dar Airports, with the TPLF claiming responsibility. Getachew Reda, the TPLF's spokesman, claimed that the rebel government would soon "conduct missile attacks to foil military movements in Massawa and Asmara". The federal government claimed that the attacks were "indicative of TPLF’s last resort attempts to maintain control". Also, the government added that the attack on Bahir Dar airport failed, as the target was missed.
Later in the day, there were reports of missile strikes in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, with the Ministry of Information and Asmara International Airport being hit, and reports of a blackout, with some people fleeing the city.

15 November


The following day, Debretsion confirmed that the TPLF had bombed Asmara Airport and that his forces had been fighting Eritrean forces "on several fronts" over the previous few days. It was reported that the number of refugees who had fled from Tigray to Sudan had reached 25,000.

16 November


The Ethiopian Government stated that Ethiopian forces had taken the town of Alamata on the southeastern tip of Tigray Region. The Government spokesman said that the TPLF forces had fled, taking with them 10,000 prisoners. It was not immediately clear who these prisoners were. Government forces were also said to be heading towards Humera to the west of the Tigray Region and on the border with both Sudan and Eritrea.

17 November


Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed posted on social media that Ethiopian armed forces were about to launch a "final and crucial" offensive after a "three-day deadline" for the Tigray authorities to surrender had expired. Abiy also confirmed airstrikes in the region but said that they were "surgical" and did not target civilians.

18 November


The Prime Minister was reported as saying that the Ethiopian Army had captured the cities of Shire and Axum and was advancing on Mekelle. The government reported that Tigray's forces were destroying bridges near the city in order to slow the advance. Tigray's leader confirmed his soldiers had lost territory but said it was a temporary setback and denied destroying the bridges. The leaders of Tigray also maintained that they would never surrender to the Ethiopian government.
The Ethiopian federal police disclosed that arrest warrants had been issued for 76 army officers, on the allegation of treason. The officers were accused of conspiring with the leaders of the Tigray region. According to the Ethiopian Federal Police Commission, the officers were associated with the attack that was carried out on November 4, by forces of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, on the Ethiopian army's Northern Command.

19 November


Federal troops seized the town of Shire Inda Selassie from the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) as government forces advanced on the Tigray Region's capital Mekelle. There were conflicting reports of the status of Axum, with both sides claiming to control the historic town, while thousands more people fled into Sudan from the Tigray Region, according to international aid workers.
The Ethiopian army chief of staff, General Berhanu Jula, alleged that the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is ethnic-Tigray and a member of the TPLF, had attempted to obtain arms for the TPLF. General Birhanu Jula described the Director-General as a criminal, and called for his removal, although he did not provide any evidence to back his allegations. Dr Tedros went on Twitter to deny these allegations. He added that he had not chosen any side and is only supporting peace.
In December, the Danish Refugee Council reported deaths of three of its security guards and the International Rescue Committee reported death of one of its staff on November 19 in Hitsats Refugee Camp. The camp was captured by ENDF on 21 November.

20 November


Mekelle University officials said that an airstrike had inflicted significant damage to the university in the capital of Tigray. The Ethiopian government claimed that its forces had captured the town of Adwa from the TPLF.
Amhara Region officials reported that the TPLF had launched a rocket attack on the capital, Bahir Dar, but that it caused no damage. The two missiles reportedly caused large explosions and one of them landed near an airport.
The UN announced that it was making plans for the possibility that up to 200,000 refugees could flee to neighboring Sudan. The UN also called for the opening of humanitarian corridors, without specifying where they should be located.

21 November


Ethiopian forces made an assault on the city of Adigrat, with the Ethiopian government claiming it had captured the town. The TPLF only announced that there had been a heavy bombardment in which nine civilians were killed.

22 November


The Ethiopian government announced that town of Idaga Hamos had been captured by Ethiopian forces, while Debretsion Gebremichael said that TPLF troops had stalled the Ethiopian forces on the southern front.{{Cite weblast=Deskfirst=Newsdate=2020-11-22title=Ethiopian forces score new advance as they push towards Tigray's capitalurl=https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/ethiopian-forces-score-new-advance-as-they-push-towards-tigrays-capital/access-date=2020-11-22website=AMN – Al-Masdar News المصدر نيوزlanguage=en-US
A military spokesperson for Ethiopia, Col Dejene Tsegaye, announced that Mekelle would be encircled and shelled. He told Tigray civilians to shelter in place and avoid military installations because "there will be no mercy".

23 November


Abiy Ahmed announced that Tigray forces had 72 hours to surrender but the TPLF vowed to keep on fighting. The state-affiliated media also accused the TPLF of destroying the Axum Airport. In Amhara Region, residents said that a rocket strike had occurred on Bahir Dar during dawn.
A reporter of the AFP news agency visited the western Tigray town of Humera, that had been heavily shelled, including from the Eritrean side. Most inhabitants had fled. Administration of the conquered parts of Western Tigray had been taken over by officials from Amhara Region.

24 November


The Tigray People's Liberation Front forces claimed that they destroyed an Ethiopian National Defense Force division. The Ethiopian government denied this and claimed that many Tigrayan fighters surrended as the 72-hour ultimatum previously issued by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed approached its end and a military build-up were growing around the region's capital, Mekelle. (Reuters)

26 November


Ahmed ordered federal military forces to launch an attack on Mekelle.

27 November


During a meeting with three African Union special envoys, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rejected holding talks with the leaders of the defiant Tigray region. However, Abiy maintained that he was ready to have a dialogue with the legally recognized Tigray representatives. The TPLF fired at least four rockets at Eritrea according to the media, though the group did not claim responsibility. Eritrean Press stated that they landed near Asmara as well as surrounding towns. One diplomat stated that there were reports of one landing to the south of Asmara. Another diplomat said that one of them struck a neighbourhood of Asmara but this couldn't be confirmed. No casualties were reported in the attack. Abiy announced that the final phase of the offensive had been launched with direct assault on Mekelle.
Meanwhile, the Umm Rakouba camp in Sudan which was intended to shelter 5,000 refugees fleeing from Ethiopia’s unrest had reached twice its initial capacity, the United Nations’s refugee agency revealed on Friday.

28 November


Both Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Chief of General Staff Birhanu Jula Gelalcha confirmed that Mekelle had fully fallen under the control of the ENDF. Abiy had stated that no civilians were harmed during the assault and that thousands of troops had been freed from the Northern Command, after being held hostage by the Tigray People's Liberation Front. However, federal troops have continued looking for the leaders of the TPLF, the BBC added.
Six explosions in Asmara during the night were reported by the United States State Department, although the reason was not immediately clear. Neither the Eritrean government, nor the TPLF commented on the issue. Two diplomats based in Addis Ababa told Agence France-Presse that the explosions were caused by rockets, which apparently struck the Asmara International Airport and Eritrean military facilities.

29 November


TPLF said they had shot down an ENDF MiG-23 that crashed near Abiy Addi, while the pilot successfully ejected and was captured. Tigray TV broadcast images from the crash-site, which showed the complete destruction of the aircraft. It isn't known how the airplane crashed. TPLF leader Debretsion announced that they had recaptured the northern town of Axum from the federal government forces. ETV said that 70 graves had been found in Humera, consisting of both individual and mass graves. The channel didn't specify who was responsible for their deaths. Both the federal Ethiopian forces and TPLF, as well as militias supporting them, have been accused of mass-killing by investigators of human rights violations.
Claims that South Sudan had been the new hideout of Debretsion Gebremichael, the chairman of the Tigray People's Liberation Front and president of the Tigray Region, brought distress and unease to many Ethiopian leaders. The Ethiopian Ambassador to South Sudan abruptly left the embassy in South Sudan soon after and Ethiopian leaders reportedly made the decision to expel all South Sudanese diplomats from the country.

30 November


According to the leader of Ethiopia's Tigray region Debretsion Gebremichael, despite the government's declaration of victory over Mekelle during the weekend, fighting is yet to stop on all fronts. Debretsion urged Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to quit what he described as insanity and should therefore pull back the federal troops from the region. The Tigray leader also accused the Ethiopian troops of launching a series of operations that is aimed at eliminating the Tigrayans.
Furthermore, Debretsion Gebremichael also claimed that his forces were still in possession of several missiles, as well as an imprecise number of prisoners belonging to the Ethiopian troops While Abiy claimed that during midnight, TPLF leaders had fled to the west of Mekelle, in an area between Hagere Selam and Abiy Addi, adding federal troops didn't attack since the TPLF leaders had their family and abducted soldiers with them. Debretsion told AFP he was near Mekelle, not Hagere Selam, while claiming TPLF withdrew from Mekelle to avoid harm to civilians. He reported fighting in Hawzen and Wukro on 29 November 2020, plus activities near Shire, but there was no fighting in Tigray on 30 November.
On 30 November also, an extraordinary session of the Ethiopian parliament was called by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. During the session, he claimed that no civilian was killed during the assault on Mekelle and 99% of missiles launched by the ENDF hit their targets. He rejected notions that the Ethiopian government would destroy the city.

December 2020


1 December


On 1 December, Keria Ibrahim, one of the nine TPLF Central Committee members and former Speaker of the HoF, was said to have surrendered to federal security forces. Gebremichael denied fleeing to South Sudan, claiming he was still near Mekelle. He also claimed that TPLF had captured Eritrean soldiers near Wukro.

2 December


On 2 December, Ethiopia and the UN signed a deal in which the UN will get humanitarian access in federally controlled land to help people displaced as a result of the conflict. The region of 6 million people which has been battling hunger since the eruption of violence between the federal government and Tigray regional government is now expected to have access to items such as medicines, first food and several other forms of aid. The UN's humanitarian agency, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), stated that the UN will receive "unimpeded, sustained, and secure access" for humanitarian aid in the Tigray region.

3 December


Doctors in Mekelle tallied the civilian causalities in the Battle of Mekelle during the federal capture of the city at 27 deaths and 100 injured, contrary to Abiy's previous claims that no citizens were killed during their offensive in Tigray. An aid worker told Reuters that clashes were still taking place to the south, north and west of Mekelle.

4 December


According to the leader of the Tigray region, Debretsion Gebremichael, protests erupted in Mekelle, just days after it was captured by the Ethiopian troops, because Eritrean troops were looting buildings. Government spokesman Billene Seyoum Woldeyes claimed nearly all of the TPLF commanders had been killed or apprehended. Residents of Mekelle confirmed that there protests and looting happened in the city on 4 December. Meanwhile, images of people occupying the streets and shopping in Mekelle were shown by State media, as the chief executive of Tigray appointed by the government has maintained that peace was stabilizing in Mekelle.{{cite web title=Protests Break Out in Captured Ethiopian City, says Tigrayan Leader Voice of Americaurl=https://www.voanews.com/africa/protests-break-out-captured-ethiopian-city-says-tigrayan-leaderaccess-date=2020-12-06website=voanews.com TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said government forces had bombed Abiy Addi.

5 December


The federal forces claimed to have captured the TPLF's spokesman, Getachew Reda, in a video broadcast on the state channel ETV. On the same day they also claimed to be 10 km (6 mi) away from the area which is believed to be the TPLF hideout.

7 December


Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed dismissed the possibility of the forces of northern Tigray having the capability to go on an offensive from the mountains of the region. Abiy maintained that the defiant group had been completely defeated and destabilized. Following Abiy’s statement, there has not been any immediate comment from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) yet. Meanwhile, a United Nations (UN) team that was attempting to visit a refugee camp, reported to have been shot at.
On the same day, arrest warrants were issued out to 10 senior police officers in Addis Ababa, on the charges of suspected treason, according to the Ethiopian federal police commission.

8 December


On 8 December the Ethiopian government officially announced it had fired on and detained a UN humanitarian force for allegedly ignoring two military checkpoints for going to areas where "they were not supposed to go." The group was trying to assess the roads before the aid convoys could go through. They had allegedly gone through two military checkpoints and were trying to pass through a third near Sheraro when they were shot at. The government stated that it did not "need a UN 'baby-sitter'" getting involved in the conflict. UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric called the incident "alarming" and stated that the UN was "engaging at the highest level with the federal government to express our concerns and avoid any such incidents in the future."

9 December


U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the United Nations had received reports of fighting going on near Mekelle, Sheraro, Axum, Abiy Addi and the areas straddling the border between Amhara and Tigray Region. Bachelet stated that they had verified reports of human rights violations and had also received reports of forced recruitment of Tigrayans to fight the TPLF.

10 December


A spokesperson for the United States Department of State told Reuters that it had credible reports of Eritrean troops being present in Tigray and called on them to withdraw if they were there. Former Eritrean defense minister Mesfin Hagos in an article published in African Arguments, cited sources in the government and outside to claim that Eritrea had deployed four mechanized divisions, seven divisions of infantry and a brigade of commandos to assist Ethiopia.

11 December


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that the agency had received many reports of Eritrean refugees being killed, kidnapped or sent back to Eritrea by force. He also called on the Ethiopian government to guarantee safe access to aid workers.

12 December


On the 12th it was reported that the first aid convoy had reached the capital of the northern Tigray region, Mekelle, according to the Ethiopian Red Cross Society. Seven white trucks of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were said to have delivered medicines, as well as other supplies in Mekelle.

13 December


On 13 December Sudan's prime minister Abdalla Hamdok announced that Ethiopia and Sudan had come to an agreement to hold a summit of East African countries to discuss a resolution to stop the fighting. In an announcement by the Transitional Government civilians within the Tigray region were ordered to disarm by 15 December or face arrest.

14 December


On 14 December civil servants within the region were expected to go back to work and those who did not were deemed to have voluntarily resigned. Flights to the Tigray region were resumed. Electricity supply along with ability to call via cell phones was restored to Mekelle. Six other towns also had mobile voice call services restored.

15 December


On 15 December Mulu Nega, the chief executive of the Transitional Government of Tigray announced that a new mayor had been appointed in Mekelle. He did not name the new mayor. He also stated that representatives of Tigrayan opposition parties including Arena Tigray, the Tigray Democratic Party (TDP) and the Assimba Democratic Party (ADP) would be assigned positions in the regional administration. On the same day door-to-door searches for civilian possession of firearms began after previous announcements ordering civilians to disarm.

16 December


On 16 December the EU announced they would delay their financial aid to Ethiopia of €90 million euros, which is equivalent to about $109 million USD or 4.29 billion Ethiopian birrs. {{Cite newslast=Meldrum   APfirst=Andrewtitle=EU postpones $109 million aid to Ethiopia over Tigray accesslanguage=en-USwork=Washington Posturl=https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/eu-postpones-109-million-aid-to-ethiopia-over-tigray-access/2020/12/16/d13ea376-3fcc-11eb-b58b-1623f6267960_story.htmlaccess-date=2020-12-17issn=0190-8286 The money was initially intended to be delivered at the end of the year, but was delayed due to EU concerns over the Ethiopian government restricting humanitarian access within Tigray.
On Wednesday also, the Sudanese army stated that some of its officers were attacked by the Ethiopian forces and militias, while on a security patrol of the border region within the Sudanese territory. According to the Sudanese military’s statement, the attack occurred on Tuesday, upon the return of their forces from a patrol of the Abu Tyour area in the al-Qadarif province which borders Ethiopia. They also added lives and properties were lost, while withholding the exact number of army officers that were supposedly killed during the ambush.

17 December


On 17 December UN Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Mark Lowcock announced that the UN would be releasing $36.5 million for aid in the Tigray Region and refugees in Sudan.

18 December


Asrat Denero, head of ENDF's information department, announced a reward of 10 million birr (around $260,000) for information leading to the arrest of the TPLF leaders.

See also

  • 2020s in military history
  • {{Reflistrefs=
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    Category:2020 in Ethiopia
    Category:Conflicts in 2020
    Conflict
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    Category:Wars involving Ethiopia
    Category:November 2020 events in Africa
    Category:Tigray conflict
     
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