Tigray rebels reject cease-fire request from Ethiopian government

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June 29 (UPI) — Rebel forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on Tuesday rejected a cease-fire offer from the central government a day after retaking the regional capital of Mekelle.

Getachew Reda, a senior Tigrayan leader, said Tigray Defense Forces would neither retreat nor hesitate to enter Eritrea and even advance toward its capital until the Ethiopian military and its allies left the region.

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“We are not party to and will not be part of such a joke,” Reda told CNN in reference to the proposed cease-fire called for by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, adding that the capital “is firmly in the hands of our forces.”

Reda further told The New York Times that Tigray forces “want to degrade as many enemy capabilities as possible.”

“We are still in hot pursuit so that enemy forces will not pose a threat to our Tigray in any way,” he said.

The refusal comes a day after Ethiopian government troops retreated from the city as thousands of residents sympathetic to the rebels celebrated by waving flags and shooting off fireworks on Monday.

Telephone and Internet services were also down in Mekelle on Tuesday and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front blamed the Ethiopian government for the blackout, CNN reported.

Throughout the eight-month civil war, the Ethiopian government has been accused of carrying out massacres, sexual violence and ethnic cleansing in Tigray.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he spoke with Abiy on Monday and was “hopeful that an effective cessation of hostilities will take place in Tigray” amid concern about a lack of humanitarian access to the region.

“It is essential that civilians are protected, humanitarian aid reaches the people in need and a political solution is found,” he said.