(BBC) – The UN has urged Ethiopian authorities to ensure the protection of civilians as the army plans to attack the capital of the northern region of Tigray.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday announced a 72-hour deadline for the region’s fighters to surrender.
The army warned Mekelle’s 500,000 residents that soldiers would “encircle” the city and attack it.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the mountainous region, has vowed to keep fighting.
The conflict has reportedly killed hundreds and displaced thousands in recent weeks. The UN has warned it could trigger a humanitarian crisis.
The authorities have to guarantee the safety of aid workers and civilians, Catherine Sozi, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Ethiopia, told news agency Reuters.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said that “Ethiopia has a duty to spare from harm even those who stay in Mekelle, not just threaten that ‘there will be no mercy’.”
On Sunday an Ethiopian army spokesman told residents of the city to “save themselves” before an offensive in the city began.
What else is happening?
The Ethiopian government has accused TPLF forces of destroying infrastructure including the airport in the ancient tourist town of Aksum, state-affiliated Fana news site reports.
It shared images of a ploughed runway, accusing the fighters of harming the region’s economy.