In a statement posted on Twitter on Sunday, Abiy said government forces were now “in the third and final phase” of their military operations in the area.
“We urge you to surrender peacefully within the next 72 hours, recognizing that you are in a position of no return,” he told members of the local ruling party, the Lao People’s Democratic Front (TPLF), directly.
The controversy follows tensions over Tigray’s unanimous decision to elect a regional executive against Abiy’s wishes.
“Our operation is aimed at ending the long-won sanctions and holding responsible individuals and groups under the rule of law,” Abiy said.
Hundreds have been killed and at least 30,000 refugees have fled to Sudan, according to the United Nations.
Tigrayan leaders have accused Abiy’s federal forces of killing innocent civilians while targeting churches and homes. The government has denied targeting civilians, and CNN has not been able to verify claims from either side due to communications restrictions. Internet, cell phones and landline phones are declining.
In his statement on Sunday, Abiy called on the people of Mekelle “to play a key role” in destroying the TPLF by “standing in solidarity with the defense forces”.