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“History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme”

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History doesn’t necessary repeat itself, however it flow tends to have cyclical nature and actions lead to reactions, if one doesn’t break the cycle and learn from the past.


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Ethiopian planes bomb three targets in Eritrea

News and Press Release

Source: PANAPress

Originally published

16 Apr 1999

Ghion Hagos, PANA Correspondent 
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (PANA) - Ethiopia said its air force bombed three military targets in Eritrea in two towns near the capital Asmara and a military training camp at Sawa on Thursday. 

The mid-day air attack on the Eritrean military training camp at Sawa caused heavy damage ''to this strategic military institution and to conscripts awaiting training there,'' an official statement issued Thursday said. 

''At the same time, the Ethiopian air force carried out attacks on carefully selected and strategic military targets around the towns of Medefera and Adki-Keyihu, which are situated north of the Zalambessa Egela front,'' the statement said. 

It added that the Ethiopian air force successfully completed its missions and all planes returned safely to base.

State television for the first time showed Thursday night images of the air attacks against the three targets in Eritrea.

Eritreaw, however, claimed the Ethiopian fighters had bombed civilian areas in Eritrea, leaving eight children wounded, with some on the critical list. 

''Ethiopian fighter planes today (Thursday) bombed the town of Adi Kaieh, the environs of Mendefera and the village of Forto in western Eritrea,'' the foreign ministry said in a statement from Asmara sent to PANA. 

It said the bombings were ''high altitude bombings and indiscriminate,'' the statement said. 

The attacks were the first sign of fighting reported in two weeks in the ongoing 11-month old border conflict between the two neighbours. 

There had been a lull in the conflict since the end of March between ground forces of the two sides on the Badme front in the north-west and on Zalambessa-Igela front in the central area of the common border. 

Copyright =A9 1999 Panafrican News Agency. All Rights Reserved.

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Analysis: From Zalambessa To Senafe

by Abebe Gemetchu, May 30, 2000

Zalambessa Town is the symbol of Eritrean aggression of May-June 1998. It was invaded early June and was under the control of the invading forces, since 10th June of that year, until it was liberated by the Ethiopian defense forces on the night of May 24, 2000, ironically coinciding with the independence day of Eritrea.

There was no battle at Zalambessa town as such. The real fighting took place along the concrete-fortified trenches to the left and right of Zalambessa across hundreds of kilometers. As a result of their ignominious defeat at the trenches, the Eritrean forces manning Zalambessa tried to retreat to Forto, but they were cut by the Ethiopian mechanized unit that had cut the road between Senafe and Forto. The forces retreating from Zalambessa were being encircled and decimated at Forto the next day, and Senafe was captured at the same time.

The War Theater

Most people, when they herd that the war had shifted to the central front in the early morning of May 23, 2000, thought that the battle was going on around Zalambessa Town. That reflected the laymen's defeniton of the Zalambessa Front, for the additional reason that their scope of the war of theater is narrow and their experience of big wars is very limited.

On May 23, active fighting was taking place from the Western Front, at Mai Dema and Mai Mine south of Adi Quala town at Bet Giorgis and Kisad Ika, along the Mereb River from Rama up to the Tsorona central front trenches and on the east of the central front, at the Aiga-Alitena trenches. Fierce battle was raging across approximately one hundred and fifty kilometers from southwest to southeast Eritrea. Several divisions, on both sides, were involved.

Brilliant Military Operation on the Aiga Trenches

On May 23, the brilliant military operation at the Mereb-Setite front eleven days earlier repeated itself. Ethiopian commando units had moved swiftly on the right flank of the Zalambessa front, through Alitena traveling for hours under the cover of darkness, climbing an altitude of 3000 meters above sea level to reach the trenches in Aiga. Despite the grueling mountain climbing, they were successful in dislodging the Eritrean units which were defending themselves in the concrete trenches that had been reinforced for the last two years. Aiga is to the northeast of Zalambessa and is a high point commanding the Zalambessa - Senafe plateau.

Another commando contingent went straight through Aiga, while the other commando contingent was fighting there, to Dalgeda and overran the trenches at Mai-Chea, a village to the north of Aiga and nearer to Senafe than Zalambessa. Whenever and wherever a gap opportunity is created the contingent moves to a designated target. This is one of the military arts Ethiopian forces utilized to move swiftly.

A third pincer movement involving several contingents including a mechanized unit, moved from Soboya clearing a road for tanks and artillery by bulldozers, linking it to Alitena, and attacked the Eritrean units at Menekuseto, an Eritrean village northeast of Zalambessa.

While the mechanized, infantry, and command units were climbing the escarpments of Aiga, Dalgeda and Monekuseto, the Ethiopian airforce dropped about 200 dummy paratroopers from an Antonov plane on the plateau near Forto to divert attention and create havoc behind enemy lines at the Zalambessa Front, so that those Ethiopian units attacking under difficult conditions would not be observed and, at the same time, to keep the enemy forces on the plateau busy without a chance to reinforce the trenches at Aiga.

These lightning successes in breaching and controlling the trenches in these most difficult terrains made PM Meles Zenawi buoyant enough to tell members of the diplomatic community in Addis Ababa the same morning, May 23, "We have controlled the commanding heights." And he predicted the crumbling of the Egela-Zalambessa Front totally within 24 hrs, because he was confident after controlling these heights and breaching the Tsorona trenches stretching from Rama up to Zalambessa, on the western flank. As one journalist said, "The Ethiopians have also surprised themselves, not only the world".

Fall of Egela (Tsorona) Trenches

It is to be remembered that, on March 1999, the Eritreans claimed to have inflicted casualties, though the number was not that much. The figure given was very much exaggerated by the Eritreans, which is by now their trade mark. The Eritrean leadership exaggerates casualties in order to attract supporters in this "senseless war" and create a de facto cease-fire, so that it could be rewarded with its aggression. At that moment, they played a gimmick exercise with the Ethiopian casualties at Tsorona, to be specific at the Igri -Mekel trenches by gathering the bodies of the Ethiopian fallen soldiers from the width and breadth of several kilometers to a narrow strip of one-third of a kilometer. Alex Last, the unofficial spokesperson of the Eritrean government, ostensibly a free-lance journalist working for the BBC and Reuters, counted the bodies in this narrow strip and multiplied it by assuming it would replicate across ten kilometers. He said bodies were strewn one over the other. Therefore he concluded that thousands were killed in the his fiction of "human wave" theory that the Eritrean spin-doctors concocted. Modern wars are not fought like in the Medieval times with swords and knifes. The Eritreans can fool only the layman, including journalists but not military personnel.

Let me comeback to the present unbelievable military genius of the Ethiopian Commanders, that startled and got off-balance the so called Western military experts. The result of these twelve days of Ethiopian blitzkrieg defied the conventional military sages and their logic.

First off all, the Eritrean commanders were cheated by their advisors, their "experts" or the mass media. They expected this time that the main thrust would come from the West, assaulting Mendefera in order to cut the big force deployed at the Egela- Zalambessa Front from its rear in Asmara. On the other hand, because of last year's experience and the further consolidation of the trenches with concrete bankers this year, they thought it would be a suicide and a futile exercise if the Ethiopians were to attack the Zalambessa Front. Therefore, the EPLF based, their analysis and calculations on the above theory and they moved a considerable amount of forces towards Mendefera (Adi - Ugri) and Areza to the newly established front, because of Ethiopian forces' move from Badme towards the east, controlling Mai-Dema and threatening the Mendefera-Asmara road.

The surprise element is essential in all kinds of wars. The Ethiopian commanders weighed the pros and cons, meticulously planned their move and unleashed their deadly assault on the central front.

First, they crushed the Mereb trenches on the left (east of Tsorona), that was then at the cost of Mendefera, and then controlled the trenches at Mai Alba. These trenches were very strong with fortified bankers running for tens of kilometers. Two, on the right side, another Ethiopian contingent controlled commanding heights southwest of River Tsorona and at the same time another contingent moved swiftly and controlled the trenches to the east of Tsorona. That is why, in the afternoon of May 23, 2000, when Foreign Minister Seyoum was asked in a press conference about what was happening on the ground and that the PM had predicted the crumbling of the central front in 24 hours, he said, "They (Ethiopian Forces) have already shattered the defense lines of the enemy, they have over-run many of their (Eritrean) trenches by flanking from right to left, finding gaps, penetrated deep in." (Reuters May 23).

As usual, the Eritrean spokesperson, advisor to the president of Eritrea, had dismissed the prediction by the Ethiopian officials, saying "was it a preliminary assessment. I can't understand how he (PM of Ethiopia) could say that," and further lied to the Washington Post reporter, Karl Vick, by saying, "We have repulsed every Ethiopian attack – and our people are telling us (that) Ethiopian losses were extremely high." Pure fabrication and lie! He never thought that he would be exposed the next day.

The Ethiopian forces, with lightning speed, overrun and took the trenches, the Eritrean forces were dislodged from the trenches and were on the run. And in the afternoon, they regrouped and, getting some reinforcement from the Mendefera front, tried several times to counterattack, but it was futile and costly, because the Ethiopians were already in the trenches, while the Eritrean were attacking from the open plain. I believe that logic dictates that the Eritrean causalities to be far more than the Ethiopians because: one, they were surprised when they were in their trenches, two once they were out of their trenches, they became sitting ducks to the merciless helicopter gun-ships; third they were forced to attack to recapture their trenches, which was unfamiliar type of fighting style to the Eritreans who were accustomed and trained to fight from inside the trenches.

Talking about lies, the Eritreans claimed that as many as seven Ethiopian MIGS were shot down during the two weeks' fighting. On May 23, Yemane, the spin-doctor, said to the Washington Post, "Three Ethiopian MIG 23 fighter jets were shot and two crashed in Eritrean territory." The Eritrean leadership have never shied away from showing off "their prize", whether of dead bodies or burned out machines. Therefore if the planes crashed in Eritrea, they would have shown them. They have no integrity and qualms to lie. So far, the Ethiopian air-force has lost one helicopter gun-ship, nothing else.

In addition to the assault on the Aiga-Alitena area and the Mereb-Tsorona on the central front, Ethiopian forces from Kuhaien area, i.e. Mai Mine, moved on the east side attacking south of Adi -Quala and controlled the strategic mountain pass of Kesad -Ika and the small town of Enda Giorgis on the road between Rama and Adi Quala.

All the activities I narrated happened on the first day of the assault, May 23, that surprised and put off balance the Eritrean forces on the central front, as a result of which Ethiopian leaders predicted "victory is at hand " within 24 hrs.

The Second Day: May 24

The mechanized forces which launched their offensive from Saboya penetrating Menekuseto split into two, one contingent turned left to Enda Gaber Kokobai, and the other went behind Forto near Senafe, cutting the rear of the Eritrean army stationed at Zalambessa Town. The commando units totally cleaned the trenches of Dalgeda, Aiga, Wankobo., Indabakuma and liberated Irob district completely. In the evening, the Ethiopian Government spokesperson declared, "The enemy force in Zalambessa has also started to collapse and lose ground".

West of Zalmbessa, forces which controlled Seb'o , Una-shehak, Enda-Hawarya, Adi-Qutu and Kudewba on the Tsorona Front and confronted the newly rushed forces the whole day. The Eritrean waves of counter offensive failed miserably. A similar situation was prevailing at Mai Alba too. That was the time when one of the poor Yemanes told the Washington Post, that " the capacity of the Ethiopian armed forces, including its air force, has been severely degraded…"

After bleeding the Eritreans in their counter offensive endeavor, the Ethiopian forces unleashed their own counter offensive and captured the famous Tsorona and Igri Mekel strategically important positions, which allowed them move to the Hazemo plains with full mechanized strength.

"Withdrawing" from Zalambessa

When the Eritrean army was getting a heavy thrashing from left and right of Zalambessa Town, the first class PR guys brought journalists to Zalambessa Town to show and prove that, Meles' prediction did not hold water.

" .. It is quite clear, the Ethiopians haven't advanced very far at all; it seems that the Eritreans have held their positions all along the central front," said BBC correspondence (part-time Eritrean Spokesman) Alex Last in the evening of May 24. And BBC reported on 24 May, 21:49 hrs. (GMT) which means at mid-night local time "Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has confidently predicted the war could be over within days. But our correspondent reports that trucks of Eritrean troops are heading along the mountain roads towards the Zalambessa Front -- an indication that for Eritrea the battle is very much still on."

The Eritrean con-men said that they had repulsed the offensive and kicked out the Ethiopians from where they came. All the reporters were taken, as in the American saying, "for a ride", believing that the Eritreans were bracing themselves for a long drawn fight or they might even reverse the situation and would show them the usual magic trick of enticing the Ethiopians deep into their territory and crush them at last.

This kind of pretentious propaganda did not work this time. As a matter of fact, instead of admitting defeat at the Egela-Zalambessa Front, they came with a funny trick and said, "for the sake of peace" they were complying with a request of redeployment by OAU the and withdrew from Zalambessa at mid-night. To make it authentic, they made their announcement from New York, which has a time count that is seven (7) hours behind the Ethiopian time zone.

When the Ethiopian people woke up the morning of 25 May, it was to the sounds of victory. "The valiant Ethiopian forces raised the Ethiopian flag over Zalambesssa town at midnight," declared the spokesperson. And when the Eritrean people woke up the same morning, they were exposed to rough shock, because they had never thought that they would lose the concrete-fortified trenches which were a kind of tourist attraction-shown to all visiting Eritreans from within the country and from abroad.

Still the next day, May 26, the poor Yemanes were saying "things are not what they appear on the ground; Ethiopia is gaining territory but losing the war". I don't understand from where this kind of logic emanates, because in the first place Ethiopia is not claiming territories; it is trying to crush the army and secondly, because the Eritrean army is being defeated, it is on the run leaving all the depots and war materials intact, dead bodies unburied. In Addis Ababa these days there is a joke which goes like this, "The UN is going to penalize the state of Eritrea for handing over war materials to Ethiopia in breach of the arms embargo."

On 25 May 2000, the Eritrean forces that had tried to flee from the area of Zalmbessa Front were encircled at Forto by the mechanized unit that had cut the road near Senafe. Another contingent that came from Menekuseto to Gaber Kokobai east of Forto and the tank regiment that remained at Zalambessa directed their fire power and annihilated them. The forces that tried to defend Senafe were incapable of doing it because the victorious advancing Ethiopian forces moved fast without wasting-time as a result, denying the enemy forces any respite.

Who are the Yemanes trying to Cheat?

The Ethiopian blitzkrieg has defied the logic understood by all military experts. The "Koreta" tactic which literally means "to cut", was developed by the EPRDF during the armed struggle which brought the Derg to its knees. The Eritrean commanders were in the trenches of Sahel at that time except about 300 artillery and tank personnel among them who came all the way to Addis with the EPRDF (Medhanie Tadesse: The Eritean Ethiopian war). They knew very well how "Koreta" or cutting worked. Maybe the arrogant leadership of the EPLF did not listen to them for their own detriment.

Anyway, as the saying goes, "You can fool some people sometime, but you can not fool all the people all the time."

The international community?

The Yemanes cannot cheat the international community by pretending that they are withdrawing to comply with the OAU appeal, because this appeal was there for the last two years. Furthermore, they know by now that Issayas accepts the peace overture when he is pressed with the a stick from the Ethiopian Armed Forces. On top on that, the big powers follow the whole drama from the sky, using their several satellites and Issayas begs them to save him by writing letters, phoning, etc., persistently.

The Eritrean people? Absolutely not!

The Yemanes cannot cheat the Eritrean people, because they witness the war in front of their very eyes. They hear and see, the artillery barrages, the planes and helicopters hunting the fleeing army and moreover they see the injured soldiers being transported to the rear. Those extreme chauvinist elements who reside abroad, know very well from the media and the situation unfolding. It is diametrically opposed to what they were told by Issayas and his gangs now and then, about how invincible they were and if the "Wayanes" (i.e. Ethiopians) tried to fight them, they would be buried and mowed to pieces before they reach the formidable trenches. When the trenches were evacuated by the Eritrean forces they know it is because of tremendous pressure. Who can accept their lame excuse? No one is a fool! No army builds trenches for two years and abandons it within one day. The army is expected to stay there for years if necessary.

Then, who are they trying to cheat?

Themselves and only themselves! The pro-Italia psyche, inflated ego and unbelievable illusion is the main reason for cheating themselves. Whether they believe it or not, the Ethiopian forces captured Senafe and Barentu, and inflicted a humiliating defeat, by liberating occupied territories and breaking the back bone of the Eritrean army as predicted by P.M Meles almost two years back. The Ethiopian Defense Forces have delivered!

May, 2000

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