He said the military would try not to harm civilians in the regional capital Mekelle – a city of 500,000 people – and urged residents to stay at home.
UN human rights chief Michele Bachelet told the BBC the city’s inhabitants were in “deep peril”.
“We’re really alarmed by the dangerous situation particularly because of the civilians trapped in Mekelle,” she said, adding that there was “potential for serious violations of international humanitarian human rights law”.
The Ethiopian authorities on Thursday said that “a humanitarian access route” overseen by the government will be opened up, adding that they were “committed to work with UN agencies… to protect civilians and those who need it”.
Mr Abiy’s announcement on the military operation came after a deadline he gave for Tigray fighters to surrender passed on Wednesday.
Details of the fighting are hard to confirm because all phone, mobile and internet communications with the Tigray region have been cut.
Journalist and political activist Daniel Berhane, who is in Mekelle, told the BBC there was no sign yet of any attack, and that shops, cafes and restaurants in the city were “almost full”.
Three African Union representatives have arrived in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to try to broker talks but Ethiopia has so far rejected all mediation attempts, saying the conflict is an internal matter and Mr Abiy’s government is engaged in a law enforcement mission in Tigray.
Also on Thursday, Ethiopian troops were deployed along the Tigray region’s border with Sudan, where they prevented people fleeing the violence from leaving the country, according to refugees.
The BBC’s Anne Soy, on the Sudanese side of the border, saw at least a dozen members of the Ethiopian military, leading to a marked decrease in the number of people crossing into Sudan.
Fears of costly Mekelle offensive By Kalkidan Yibeltal, BBC News, Addis Ababa In the “final phase” of the military offensive that PM Abiy launched following the expiry of the 72-hour ultimatum, he spoke of a military strategy in which top personnel of the TPLF would be brought to justice without harming civilians or properties in and around Mekelle.
Mr Abiy said “great care” would be taken to protect civilians and “all efforts” would be made to limit damage to Mekelle.
Some analysts fear that the situation could turn into a guerrilla conflict – with the TPLF continuing to mount attacks on government forces even if they take Mekelle.
But 11 days after the capture state media published pictures of the runway apparently strewn with rubble and with trenches dug across it to prevent planes landing, accusing the TPLF of sabotage attacks.
Mr Debretsion denied destroying the airport, saying his forces had put up obstacles to stop the Ethiopian army.
Aid groups fear the conflict could trigger a humanitarian crisis and destabilise the Horn of Africa region.
Ethiopia’s state-appointed Human Rights Commission has accused a Tigrayan youth group of being behind a massacre earlier this month in which it says more than 600 non-Tigrayan civilians in the town of Mai-Kadra were killed.
The conflict is rooted in longstanding tension between Ethiopia’s central government and the TPLF, which was the dominant political force in the whole country until Mr Abiy came to power in 2018 and introduced a series of far-reaching reforms.
The TPLF said the central government’s mandate to rule had expired, arguing that Mr Abiy had not been tested in a national election.
Then, on 4 November, the Ethiopian prime minister announced an operation against the TPLF, accusing its forces of attacking the army’s northern command headquarters in Mekelle.
src : news.yahoo.com