The warring parties in Ethiopia pledged peace talks for the first time last week, but the nearly two-year-long war is now more intense than ever. Information that is slowly coming out shows that battles have been taking place in Tigray state since last month in which hundreds of thousands of soldiers participate. Refugee camps are being bombed and schools and other civilian targets are under fire. The army of neighboring Eritrea has also invaded and interfered in the conflict between the central Ethiopian government in Addis Ababa and the state government of Tigray. Tens of thousands have been killed since the outbreak of war in November 2020, according to estimates by aid workers and observers. The majority of the Tigrese population is deprived of aid due to a humanitarian blockade imposed by the government in Addis Ababa. Moreover, since the beginning of the war, the seven million Tigreeans have been living without internet, telephone and banking facilities. Hospitals do without the most basic medicines. A number of Western countries, including the Netherlands, on Wednesday condemned starvation of a civilian population as a method of warfare and called for an immediate cessation of the offensives. After several months with an unofficial ceasefire, the fighting has escalated for several weeks as 750,000 Eritrean and Ethiopian government soldiers, together with local troops from Amhara state, pound 250,000 soldiers from Tigray. A general mobilization was declared in both Eritrea and Tigray. Ethiopian government soldiers have marched into neighboring Eritrea and from there, along with their Eritrean counterparts, invade Tigray from the north. There are also fierce battles in all other directions. In the north, Tigres forces have lost ground, but the invading forces have failed to capture major cities and advance towards the regional capital of Mekelle. The government armies of Ethiopia and Eritrea have a superior force in manpower and material, the Tigreeans seem to have more willpower. Call for an independent state There was a glimmer of hope when the parties first announced their readiness for peace talks last Thursday, but these planned talks in South Africa were postponed “for logistical reasons”. Tigres leaders demand an immediate lifting of the blockade of their state. Under the blockade and attacks by drones and artillery fire, the Tigrese people are calling for an independent state. Tigreans in South Africa demonstrate on Wednesday for an end to attacks on their community and the blockade of the region. Photo Kim Ludbrook / EPA Eritrea President Isaias Aferwerki wants to eliminate Tigray’s leadership, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed shares that goal and aims to dismantle Tigray’s army. Their partners, the leaders of Amhara, want to annex the western part of Tigray into their state. The commitment of the members of this coalition is all or nothing, a zero-sum game, and it will be difficult for them to make concessions if peace talks do start. Also read: How Ethiopia is being torn apart by its proud past The pressure to negotiate comes mainly from America and Europe. Under their leadership and by the African Union, exploratory talks took place in the Seychelles and Djibouti during the armistice, with the lifting of the blockade being the main topic. Those consultations did not lead to an agreement; everything indicates that the parties prefer to fight it out. Loot and Destroy The massive Eritrean intervention complicates the war. Also at the start of the battle in November 2020, Eritrean soldiers participated for several months in the Ethiopian opening offensive against Tigray. Their contribution then took on the character of a punitive expedition because they looted on a large scale, destroyed schools, clinics and agricultural equipment and did not leave even classical mosques and churches untouched. Neither Aferwerki’s soldiers nor Abiy Ahmed’s soldiers then managed to defeat the Tigres army. There is a lot of old grief between the Tigreeans and Eritreans who, although they share language and history, are old rivals with feuds going back to the Italian colonial days in Eritrea and their common struggle for liberation in the 1980s against the Ethiopian military rule of Mengistu Haile Mariam . At the end of the last century, the Tigreeans, then in power in Addis Ababa, and the Eritreans were already waging a war. More than eighty thousand people were killed. A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of October 14, 2022