Ethiopian and Eritrean forces launched a “massive” joint offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the northern region of Tigray on Thursday, the rebels said. “The enemy, having already relocated a massive military force to Eritrea, has now begun a joint campaign with the foreign invading force of Eritrea to brutalise and exterminate the people of Tigray,” the rebels’ military command said in a statement. AFP was not able to independently verify the claims. Access to northern Ethiopia is severely restricted and Tigray has been under a communications blackout for over a year. TPLF spokesman Kindeya Gebrehiwot told AFP the attack was coming “from Eritrea”. Another TPLF spokesman, Getachew Reda, described it as a four-pronged offensive. He said on Twitter that the rebels were “defending their positions” and reported “heavy shelling” from some locations. Addis Ababa has not responded to requests for comment about the reported offensive. Fighting between government forces and the rebels had resumed last week after a five-month lull, with clashes on the ground and air raids over Tigray dashing hopes of peacefully resolving the nearly two-year war. Combat had been concentrated around the southeastern border of Tigray, with the rebels pushing into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, sending residents fleeing. The government on Wednesday accused the TPLF of launching a wider “invasion” into parts of western Tigray, and other areas west of the initial clashes. The rebels in turn alleged that the government and its neighbour Eritrea — which backed federal forces during the war’s early phase — were responsible for opening a new front. On Thursday, the government said TPLF attacks “had further continued to intensify”. “Innocent civilians are being killed; many are being displaced and property is being destroyed,” the Government Communication Service said in a statement. International alarm Fighting has spread since combat erupted on August 24, while the capital of the war-torn Tigray region has been hit twice by air strikes. The first air raid on Mekele killed at least four people, including children, in a strike the UN children’s agency UNICEF said “hit a kindergarten”. The second, around midnight on Tuesday, caused injuries and property damage, the TPLF said. Both sides accused each other of firing first and shattering a March truce that had paused the worst of the bloodshed in northern Ethiopia. The renewed fighting has alarmed the international community, with UN chief Antonio Guterres and senior diplomats from the European Union and the African Union among those to appeal for restraint.