Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A man registers Ethiopian refugees, who fled the fighting in Tigray Region, at a border reception centre (Village 8) in Gedaref State, eastern Sudan, on Nov. 29, 2020.


A day after Ethiopia declared victory in its 25-day military march into the rebellious Tigray region, reports from the war zone suggest the fighting is far from over and the battle is shifting to a guerrilla conflict.

Tigrayan television, claiming that Tigrayan forces had shot down an Ethiopian warplane, showed video images of burning airplane wreckage and a captured Ethiopian pilot to support the assertion. Tigrayan leaders also said their forces had regained control of the historic town of Aksum, which the Ethiopian military had captured weeks ago.

The reports were impossible to confirm, because Ethiopia has shut down all communications and barred any independent media from the region. But diplomats confirmed a separate report that Tigrayan missiles were fired at targets in neighbouring Eritrea on Saturday night, hours after Ethiopia’s proclamation of victory.

Story continues below advertisement

The rocket attack, which led to six reported explosions in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, showed that the rebels still retained an arsenal of heavy weapons and the capacity to use them.

Ethiopia’s civil war in Tigray: What you need to know about who’s fighting whom and the toll it’s taken so far

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on Saturday that his forces were “fully in control” of Tigray’s capital, Mekele, a city of about 500,000. This was the “last phase” of the military offensive, he said. “The main operation is successfully concluded.”

Mr. Abiy said his forces were now pursuing the “criminals” of the region’s long-ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), with the intention of arresting them and putting them on trial.

The TPLF, which had been Ethiopia’s dominant faction for nearly three decades before Mr. Abiy’s ascent to the Prime Minister’s post in 2018, has increasingly feuded with him over issues of regional autonomy and political power. It held a regional election in defiance of his orders this year.

The TPLF, with about 250,000 fighters at its command, has a long history of guerrilla warfare in Tigray’s mountainous terrain. It spearheaded a rebellion against Ethiopia’s Marxist regime in the 1970s and 1980s, finally ousting the regime in 1991, and then played a key role in a brutal war against Eritrea in the late 1990s.

Before the Ethiopian assault on Mekele, many observers had worried that the attack would be a bloodbath. Artillery shelling was reported in the city on Saturday morning, sparking fears of massive damage and injuries. It appears, however, that the TPLF chose to retreat from the city and continue the fight elsewhere.

Mr. Abiy’s victory declaration made no mention of civilian casualties in the city. But a detailed report on Sunday from the International Committee of the Red Cross made it clear that the assault had led to heavy casualties – including so many deaths that there was a shortage of body bags.

Story continues below advertisement

“Local hospitals and health facilities are running dangerously low on medical supplies,” the ICRC said.

At one major hospital in the city, Ayder Referral Hospital, about 80 per cent of the patients were suffering from trauma injuries because of the fighting, and the influx of wounded had forced the hospital to suspend many other medical services, the ICRC said.

It said the hospital was running out of body bags and food supplies.

“The hospital is running dangerously low on sutures, antibiotics, anti-coagulants, painkillers and even gloves,” said Maria Soledad, head of operations for the ICRC in Ethiopia, who was in Mekele on Sunday.

But the damage extends far beyond the regional capital. About 1,000 Eritrean refugees have trekked to Mekele to seek food because of problems at their camps in the town of Shire, the ICRC said.

A report last week by an ICRC field team described the damage in northern Amhara region and western Tigray, where about 2,000 people had fled to makeshift camps. “We came across a destroyed village,” the report said. “A house was burning. The area was completely deserted.”

Story continues below advertisement

Despite weeks of requests to the Ethiopian government, the United Nations has failed to obtain humanitarian access to Tigray to deliver food and other supplies, which are rapidly running out.

Nearly 45,000 refugees have crossed the border from Tigray into Sudan. But the flow of refugees has been sharply curtailed in recent days, with reports that Ethiopian troops are blocking their route.

Human-rights groups and refugees from Tigray have alleged that both sides have committed atrocities during the war, including the killing of hundreds of civilians. Ethiopian state television, in a report on Sunday, said 70 graves had been discovered in the town of Humera in Tigray, with some of the graves containing multiple bodies.

In total, thousands of civilians and soldiers have died since the fighting began in Tigray on Nov. 4, according to a report by the International Crisis Group, an independent organization.

“Ethiopia’s partners should continue to press the message that the answer to the country’s deep political fault lines will not come on the battlefield,” the Crisis Group said in a statement just before the Ethiopian assault on Mekele.

Dino Mahtani, deputy director of the Africa program at the Crisis Group, said on Sunday that the Ethiopian forces seem to have avoided “the worst-case scenario – a total bloodbath in Mekele.”

Story continues below advertisement

But a prolonged insurgency is still possible in Tigray, and governing the region will be difficult if other ethnic groups claim the right to disputed land in Tigray, he said on Twitter. Amhara militias have already been supporting the Ethiopian army offensive in Tigray.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies