A power outage in the region made claims on both sides difficult to verify, but hundreds of people were reportedly killed as tens of thousands of people fled fighting in neighboring Sudan.
Mr Abiy’s government has claimed responsibility for the capture of a series of towns in recent days, including the ancient town of Aksum and the town of Edega Hamus, 100 kilometers north of Mekele.
“The defense forces have controlled the town of Edaga Hamus, which lies on the road from Adigrat to Mekele,” the State of Emergency Fact Check, an Ethiopian government agency, said on Sunday.
“The defense forces are marching on the last goal of the campaign, the town of Mekele.”
TPLF chief Debretsion Gebremichael has promised “fierce fighting” to curb the advance of the Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF).
“They will continue to pay for each move,” he told TBEN. Debretsion warned that an assault on Mekele would not be the end of the conflict.
“As long as the occupation force is in Tigray, the fighting will not stop,” he said.
The TPLF led the overthrow of Mengistu Hailemariam, leader of Ethiopia’s Derg military regime, in 1991 and dominated the country’s politics until Abiy became prime minister in 2018.
The party continues to lead Tigray, one of the 10 regional states in Ethiopia’s system of federalism in which regions are demarcated by ethnicity and language.
TPLF leaders complained that they were dismissed by Mr. Abiy and blamed for the country’s woes.
The bitter feud with the central government has led the TPLF to hold its own elections this year despite the postponement of national elections due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Abiy has rejected all calls for peace, including from the African Union – which plans to send three former national presidents as special envoys in the coming days – and from the United States and the UN which have put warning of an impending humanitarian catastrophe. His government views the TPLF as a criminal administration and seems determined to win the military battle rather than negotiate.