"The region [Mekele city] doesn't have a government," an interim official tells AFP news agency, signalling a turning point in nearly eight-month-old conflict.

Passengers walk next to the statue of Alula Aba Nega, Ethiopian general from Tigray, after flights to Addis Ababa was cancelled at Mekelle, capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on June 25, 2021.
Passengers walk next to the statue of Alula Aba Nega, Ethiopian general from Tigray, after flights to Addis Ababa was cancelled at Mekelle, capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on June 25, 2021. (AFP)

The interim government of Ethiopia's war-hit Tigray region has fled its posts as rebels entered the local capital Mekele, an official said, signalling a turning point in the nearly eight-month-old conflict.

"Everybody has left. The last ones left in the afternoon... The region doesn't have a government," said one interim official on Monday, who spoke to AFP news agency on condition of anonymity for safety reasons. 

Rebel fighters' entry in the area sparked celebrations in the streets, witnesses and an AFP journalist in Mekele said.

"TDF has taken control of the city," said one interim government official in Mekele, referring to the rebels who have branded themselves the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF). 

"They have entered. The city is celebrating. Everybody is outside dancing."

"The capital of Tigray, Mekele, is under our control," Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the rebel group, told Reuters news agency by satellite phone.

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Government accepts ceasefire call

Meanwhile, Ethiopia's government said it has "positively accepted" a call for an immediate, unilateral ceasefire in the volatile region as hundreds of thousands of people face the world's worst famine crisis in a decade.

The statement carried by state media came shortly after the Tigray interim administration, appointed by the federal government, fled the regional capital, Mekele, and called for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds so that desperately needed aid can be delivered. 

Ethiopia says the ceasefire will last until the end of the crucial planting season in Tigray. The season's end comes in September.

"The government has the responsibility to find a political solution to the problem," the head of the interim administration, Abraham Belay, said, adding that some elements within Tigray's former ruling party are willing to engage with the federal government. 

The region in recent days has seen some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict. 

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Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict as Ethiopian and allied forces pursue Tigray's former leaders and their supporters, and as humanitarian groups plead for more access to the region of 6 million people. 

International pressure on Ethiopia spiked again last week after a military air strike on a busy market in Tigray killed more than 60 people.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies