In the wake of escalating alarm over more unrest in the country, the United Nations has decided to evacuate the families of the staff present in Ethiopia.

France also advised its citizens to leave
France also advised its citizens to leave "without delay", following similar advisories by the US and the UK. (AFP Archive)

International alarm has mounted over the escalating war in Ethiopia as Tigrayan rebels claimed to be edging closer to the capital Addis Ababa and more foreign citizens were told to leave.

The United Nations said on Tuesday it had ordered the immediate evacuation of family members of international staff while France became the latest Western government to tell its citizens to leave Ethiopia.

An internal UN security order seen by AFP news agency said family members of international staff should be evacuated by November 25.

"Given the security situation in the country and out of an abundance of caution, the United Nations has decided to reduce its footprint in the country by temporarily relocating all eligible dependents," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, putting the number of people affected at a few hundred.

France also advised its citizens to leave "without delay", following similar advisories by the US and the UK.

READ MORE: US: Fighting threatens 'massive' progress in Ethiopia peace talks

'Existential war'

A scramble to evacuate foreigners was continuing, three weeks after the government declared a state of emergency and ordered residents to prepare to defend the capital.

But officials in Addis Ababa said at a briefing to diplomats that security forces were working to keep the city safe.

"The propaganda and terror talk being disseminated by the Western media fully contradicts the peaceful state of the city on the ground, so the diplomatic community shouldn't feel any worry or fear," said Kenea Yadeta, head of the Addis Ababa Peace and Security Bureau.

The rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) claimed this week it had taken a town just 220 kilometres (135 miles) from the capital, although battlefield claims are hard to verify because of a communications blackout.

On Monday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vowed he would head to the battlefront to lead his soldiers in what the government has described as an "existential war" in Africa's second most populous nation.

"We are now in the final stages of saving Ethiopia," said Abiy, who only two years ago was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for securing a peace deal with neighbouring Eritrea.

Thousands of people have been killed since fighting erupted in November 2020, triggering a desperate humanitarian crisis that the UN says has left hundreds of thousands on the brink of famine and displaced more than two million.

The latest developments cast doubt on hopes of an end to the conflict, which has stoked fears it could sow wider instability in the Horn of Africa region.

The conflict erupted when Abiy sent troops into the northernmost Tigray region to topple the TPLF in November 2020, saying the move came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps. 

READ MORE: Abiy Ahmed's odyssey from Nobel Peace laureate to civil war warrior

Source: TRTWorld and agencies