Addis Ababa (AFP) -
Hundreds of Ethiopians gathered in the capital Thursday to donate blood for troops fighting in the northern Tigray region, as officials tried to rally support for a conflict Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said was going his way.
Abiy, last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, dispatched troops and warplanes into Tigray last week after a months-long feud with its ruling party, which he accuses of seeking to destabilise the country.
He said the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) had crossed a 'red line' and attacked two federal military bases, which the party denies.
Thursday's blood drive was organised by the office of Addis Ababa Mayor Adanech Abebe, who claimed the population was unified against the TPLF while donating blood herself.
'The aim of this blood donation is to express our respect for our army,' she told AFP as a nurse drew blood from her left arm.
'The attack done by TPLF to our army is shameful for Ethiopia. Never happened in our history. We want to condemn this.'
Tigray has been under a communications blackout since the military operation was launched on November 4, making it difficult to verify the situation on the ground as both sides make conflicting claims.
In a Facebook post Thursday, Abiy said government forces had 'liberated' western Tigray.
Abiy also accused TPLF-aligned fighters of 'cruelty', saying that when the army took control of the town of Sheraro they 'found bodies of executed defence force personnel whose hands and feet were tied'.
There was no immediate reaction from the TPLF.
In a report published Wednesday, the UN's humanitarian affairs office warned that lack of relief access in Tigray means 'food, health and other emergency supplies have no way to make it into the region'.
It also noted 'increasing concern for the protection of civilians against hostilities'.
Abiy said on Facebook that 'the army is giving humanitarian aid' in western Tigray.