After the attack in Ethiopia on the TPLF wing last week it seems that the FDRE army is continuing to gain ground without much opposition from Tigrinya forces. The great government counter-offensive, after months of preparation in which it seemed that the federal army had lost the opportunity to counterattack, is underway and is achieving success day after day.

On December 1 government forces have regained control of the city of Lalibela, UNESCO heritage site located in the north-west of Amhara, therefore close to the region of Tigray. This, according to national media, is only one of the cities regained by the army in the region. Another city that seems to be back under government control is Shewa Robit, only 220 km away from the capital Addis Ababa. Some pictures appeared on twitter then show how the Tigrinya army is withdrawing from the A2 highway, which goes from Mekelle to Addis Ababa and that has been the main line of advance of the TPLF until now. News so far are not confirmed by independent agencies nor commented by TPLF.

The TPLF itself has stated that it is conducting a ‘strategic retreat’ after the blow it suffered last week and the advance of government forces. The only official statement from the TPLF is the protest, sent by the current TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael to the UN, regarding the continuous drone raids on the Tigrinya capital Mekelle, which according to the Tigrinya often target civilians. In the meantime, the TPLF leader has also stated that Ethiopia has received numerous Chinese drones, as well as weapons from Iran, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.

In these days also the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Yi, is visiting Ethiopia to assure the Chinese support to FDRE and Abyi, who however seems to be continuing to accompany the army in its war effort. In fact, the public meeting in which the Chinese foreign minister has assured his support was between the Chinese and Abyi’s deputy, Demeke Makonnen.

The latest news, however, also unconfirmed, say that the line of fighting is settling around Dessie. One of the strategic points on the A2 highway and which was captured by the TPLF a few weeks ago. Government spokesman, Legesse Tulu, said the military is confident it can recapture Dessie “in a short period of time.” Abyi then went on to reiterate, stating that “The enemy is defeated. Our remaining task is to rout the enemy and destroy them,” adding that “victory is imminent.”

However, as much as these reports need to be confirmed, it is clear that doubts about an abrupt end to the conflict remain. These were present both when the TPLF seemed in control of the conflict and now when the parties seem to have reversed. On the one hand Abyi Ahmed had already announced victory last November, yet the conflict is still ongoing and on the other hand the TPLF, both during the war with the Derg and during this conflict, has always known when to retreat and also how to rise from the ashes when it seemed defeated. The only statement that can be made with relative certainty at the moment is that, perhaps, never before has the fate of the conflict been in the balance.

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