Less than a week after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced a proposal to formalize a ceasefire with the TPLF, and to initiate a national reconciliation dialogue, new armed clashes have occurred in the south of Tigray regional state, along the borders with the adjacent Amhara and Afar regional states (https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/fighting-resumes-along-border-ethiopias-northern-tigray-region-resident-tigray-2022-08-24/).
Troop movements and sporadic exchanges of gunfire had actually been reported by the TPLF even in the days prior to the announcement of the negotiation plan by the Ethiopian prime minister, although firmly denied by the federal government in Addis Ababa, which had indeed insisted on the need to initiate political dialogue to facilitate a solution to the crisis.
The prime minister’s proposals had been responded to on August 23 by the president of the regional state of Tigray, Debretsion Gebremichael, arguing how the peace plan was designed to fail, and calling on the federal government to restore essential services, ensure humanitarian aid access, order the withdrawal of Eritrean troops still on its territory, as well as the liberation of western Tigray still under Amhara occupation, and promote the action of investigators on war crimes. An outright rejection of the negotiating proposal, in fact, deemed by the TPLF as instrumental in the pursuit of its goals of economic and humanitarian strangulation of the region.
On the same August 23, the Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Federal Forces, Maj. Gen. Tesfaye Ayalew, reported the downing of a plane from Sudan with a cargo of weapons destined for the TPLF militias. The plane, an Antonov 26, reportedly violated Ethiopian airspace near the town of Humera, being shot down by a federal Sukhoi Su-27, and was described as “the property of a historical enemy of Ethiopia,” although without any specific indication of nationality (https://sudantribune.com/article263195/).
TPLF spokesman Gatachew Reda responded the next day to the news of the plane’s downing, calling it a deliberate lie and a pretext for launching the military attack in southern Tigray (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-08-24/ethiopia-says-arms-laden-plane-from-sudan-shot-down-ebc-reports).
Violent fighting has been reported since August 24, with a mutual exchange of accusations between the federal government and the regional government in Mekelle regarding responsibility for the attacks. According to authorities in Addis Ababa, the TPLF allegedly violated the cease-fire by categorically rejecting any negotiating proposal from the federal government, while the regional political leadership in Mekelle charges the federal army and Amhara militias with attacking deep along the border line, carrying out numerous air sorties including against the Tigray capital (https://www.ft.com/content/b0c6d5f7-b3f3-43ec-bcd0-a10d2780a26f).
The first fighting between federal ENDF forces and Tigrayan TDF forces reportedly occurred on August 24 near the village of Kobo, near the A2 highway, and further east in the locality of Zobel, along the border with the Amhara regional state. A further firefight was reportedly reported further east along the border with Afar regional state near the locality of Bisober and Tekulesh. Tigrinya forces reportedly managed to repel the attacks and advance in the following days in a southerly direction, capturing the villages of Mendefera and Rare on August 27, then pushing further south, capturing the town of Kobo after federal forces withdrew. According to Tigrinya sources that are difficult to confirm, TDF forces also captured the village of Fokisa in Afar territory, thus greatly expanding the projection of their forces far beyond the southern border of Tigray regional state into the Zobel Mountains area.
Clashes increased in intensity in the days that followed, and on August 28 Tigrayan authorities reported an airstrike against targets in the center of the regional capital, Mekelle, where a school recreation area was reportedly hit, killing three children and four adults (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/27/ethiopia-airstrike-hits-playground-in-tigray-killing-at-least-seven).
Federal authorities confirmed the attack but claimed to rule out any civilian casualties, shortly afterwards issuing an official statement in which they asked the people of Tigray not to approach the TPLF military infrastructure, which is the target of the airstrikes.