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Ethiopia’s Civil War Take Surprise Turn as Rebels Retake Tigray’s Capital

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Rebel forces retake Tigray’s capital Mekele and Ethiopia declares cease-fire, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visits the United Arab Emirates, and U.S. troops take rocket fire following U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Rebel forces retake Tigray’s capital Mekele and Ethiopia declares cease-fire, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visits the United Arab Emirates, and U.S. troops take rocket fire following U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


TPLF Retakes Tigray’s Capital

The balance of power in Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s war with the formerly-dominant Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) shifted dramatically on Monday, as rebels recaptured Tigray’s capital Mekele, seven months after government forces had seized the city.

Within an hour, the Ethiopian government had declared a unilateral cease-fire—something it had resisted, despite international pressure, for months—citing a request from Tigray’s interim government appointed by Addis Ababa. In reality, the interim government, along with government troops, had already fled, with some departing Tigray on Sunday amid the TPLF advance.

What next? The upheaval leaves a murky aftermath. If observed, the cease-fire—ostensibly called to carry out the region’s crop planting season and let in humanitarian aid—could hold until September, but it’s not clear whether Eritrean forces remaining in the area will cooperate with the Ethiopian government declaration. How much political capital Abiy is willing to spend on seeking to retake Mekele may depend partly on the outcome of the June 21 legislative elections, with results likely to be announced on July 1.

The TPLF speaks. In Mekele, witnesses reported residents dancing in the streets as Tigrayan forces paraded through the capital. A statement attributed to the reinstated government of Tigray made no mention of a cease-fire, but pledged that the state “will indeed be the graveyard (and not a free ground for atrocities) of the unjust and unholy coalition of invading forces.”

U.N. action. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, after speaking with Abiy, said he was “hopeful” that a cease-fire would take hold adding that it is “essential that civilians are protected, humanitarian aid reaches the people in need and a political solution is found.” Three members of the U.N. Security Council—Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States—have called for an emergency meeting to discuss the developments, which will likely take place on Friday.


What We’re Following Today

Lapid to UAE. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid travels to the United Arab Emirates today to inaugurate a new embassy in Abu Dhabi, the first official visit from an Israeli cabinet official since the two countries agreed to normalize relations. The visit is a chance to reset ties after the UAE condemned the potential forced evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and comes amid broader anger across the Arab world over the 11-day Israel-Gaza conflict in May. 

U.S. troops under fire. U.S. troops in Syria came under rocket fire on Monday in apparent retaliation to U.S. airstrikes on Iran-linked militias in Iraq and Syria late Sunday night. The governments of both Iraq and Syria condemned the U.S. strikes, with Syria’s foreign ministry calling it a “flagrant violation of the sanctity of Syrian and Iraqi lands” and the Iraqi government saying it would “study all legal options” to prevent more U.S. strikes in future. Senators Bob Menendez and Chris Murphy have questioned the legal foundations on which the White House ordered the strike.

Record North American temperatures. Temperatures in America’s northwest posted record highs on Monday, and Canada reported a new national record—116 degrees Fahrenheit—in a village in British Columbia, as a heat wave continues through the week. A band of high pressure known as a “heat dome” has been blamed for the unusual temperatures, although experts say climate change can increase the frequency of such events. Governors in the states of Washington and Oregon have eased some coronavirus-related capacity restrictions to allow residents to access air-conditioned facilities.


Brazil’s drought. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed an executive order on Monday establishing emergency measures to manage water flows through the country’s hydroelectric plants as Brazil endures its worst drought in almost a century. Speaking on Monday, Brazilian Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque urged residents to curtail their power and water usage. The new measures come a week after Brazil’s Congress approved a bill to privatize state-controlled energy company Eletrobras.

U.N. rights chief endorses reparations. U.N. Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet launched a report on Monday calling for “transformative” actions, including reparations, to combat anti-Black racism and “make amends” to Black people worldwide. The report, which was ordered after the murder of George Floyd last year and analyzed roughly 60 countries found that there were “striking similarities” in the barriers preventing Black people from accessing justice.

“A main part of the problem is that many people believe the misconceptions that the abolition of slavery, the end of the transatlantic trade and colonialism have removed the racially discriminatory structures built by those practices,” Mona Rishmawi, who heads a branch in the office of the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner, said. “We found that this is not true.”


A pair of nude sunbathers were rescued by Australian police after getting lost in a national park on Sunday—and promptly fined for breaking COVID-19 restrictions. According to Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, who described the two men as “idiots,” the duo were initially startled by a deer while lounging on a nearby beach, leading them to flee into the Royal National Park. Each man was fined 1,000 Australian dollars ($759) for breaking Sydney’s stay-at-home order.

On the other side of the country, Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan took the opportunity to make fun of his east coast compatriots: “I think that’s something you wouldn’t see happen here,” McGowan said at a press conference in Perth, “I hope the deer’s OK.”



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