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  • Operation Fenkil: The unthinkable achieved in 59 hours

    Eritrea Profile
    Feb 8, 2020

    Natnael Yebio W.


    On February 8, 1990, EPLF forces began their offensive attack by cutting off the critical supply route from Massawa to Asmara garrison. The surprise attack stunned the Ethiopian military and by the following afternoon the EPLF forces were in the suburbs of Massawa. On the third day of the offensive, February 11, 1990, the Eritrean forces captured the Ethiopian naval base near the town. The only remaining portions of the city to rid of Ethiopian troops were the islands.

    To achieve this Eritrean forces used their nascent naval forces (mostly small gunboats) to attack from the sea during an artillery barrage. Using this artillery fire the Eritrean armor moved onto the causeways that connected the islands with the mainland. The first of these tanks was destroyed by the Ethiopian garrison that was eventually overcome by the EPLF. After this defeat the remainder of the Ethiopian forces retreated to Ghinda.

    After their loss of Massawa, the Ethiopians continued their aerial bombardment of the city. The civilian population was hardest hit as the EPLF forces had followed the Ethiopian troops to Ghindae. Notable of this bombardment was the use of napalm and cluster bombs.

    The Ghindae front, extending from Ghindae to Adi Roso and Northern Red-Sea, was baptized with names like ‘Enda Bumba”, “Feres sege”, “Gahayat”, “Enda Kewhi”, “Enda Harestay”, “Enda Misayl” and “Shndwa”, signifying the struggle’s relentless march towards independence. The front withheld non-stop heavy military offence from the enemy from February 1990 up to May 1991, the liberation of Eritrea. This front was used as a final frontier to completely destroy the enemy and ensure the inevitability of Eritrea’s independence.

    What made the operation a victory against all odds was the mismatch between the two forces. On one side, you had the largest army in Africa, which was well-equipped with all types of weapons bought at the expense of a starving people. The famine did not deter the enemy from arming its soldiers to the teeth to fight a long and bloody war. On the other side, you had Eritrean freedom fighters, few but tactical and determined.

    Operation Fenkil took a good 59 hours to complete. The systematic coordination of ground troops and naval and mechanized units resulted in the surrender of 20,000 Derg soldiers, the destruction of two-third of a modern and well- equipped Derg military and the liberation of Massawa and Ghindae.

    The resilient freedom fighters strode to the port with courage and determination. It was a time to no longer look back but to march forward; independence was within touching distance. The enemy did not know what hit them -- their tanks were dismantled and their ships sunk by the non-stop attack of Eritrea’s heroes. To the tegadelti(freedom fighters), an assault meant the sacrifice of lives. If they had to attack the enemy, it should be done when success seemed assured, and the resultant victory was worth the cost.

    I do believe that what the Ethiopian army learned at various battles fought against the Eritrean freedom fighters was that the tegadelti could manifest superhuman endurance if they wanted. I have seen many pictures of Fenkil Operation when the freedom fighters poured their sweat to preserve their blood -- sturdy youth carrying heavy logs up along the narrow roads of Sigalet Ketan in a place where the temperature runs up to 50 degrees at times.

    The enemy moved accompanied by tanks, Stalin organs, migs and bags of lies and propaganda.The Kitaw was supposed to punish the freedom fighters for their insolence, the Nebelbal were supposed to consume with a blazing fire those who resisted; the Tewerwari was the panzer division or a deployment force. Alas, all disappeared in the hands of Sahel trained wonders, along with their bizarre names and funny ideas.

    Resistance was the only Eritrean weapon that the enemy dreaded. What is the use of napalm and ten-barreled mortars if the one you are tackling knows how to resist? It is the resistance of the scorpion, which after an atomic blast in its surrounding continues to crawl stinging right and left.

    Endurance, self-sacrifice and fortitude are commodities that are out of stock in this decadent world, but our tegadelti were made out of these traits. They proved it when they relentlessly defended Nakfa and Sahel. And in the battle to win Massawa, they redefined the art of war and made it their own creation.

    A lot has been said about the endurance and fortitude of the Eritrean army in front of a superior firepower and huge army, aided and supported by superpowers.

    The enemy, coming from more verdant and guest-friendly terrain, thought it was fighting on two fronts: the people and the land.

    The Ethiopian soldiers wore boots, ate canned food, had helicopters to take them to the nearest hospital or clinic when wounded, drank beer and had sweethearts (at the point of a gun) in every village or town under their control.

    The freedom fighters wore thong sandals, ate weddi aker (sorghum mixed with weevils), mostly walked to the nearest FSU (Front Surgical Unit) on foot when wounded, drank contaminated water and eschewed all kinds of frivolities and easy life.

    It was simply a bitter pill to swallow for the Derg soldiers that they would never henceforth defeat the Eritrean freedom forces. “What do they have that we don’t have?” shouted frustrated Mengistu. But nobody dared tell him that those boys and girls over there had endurance and fortitude in large quantity, something that he couldn’t obtain by traveling to the Soviet Union or East Germany. Massawa proved once and for all that independence was inevitable. When the Derg came to power in Ethiopia, Massawa and most part of Eritrea saw the harshest of colonial mistreatment. During that period two important events can be recalled, First Offence of Salina to liberate the port of Massawa in 1977 and the successful 1990 Operation Fenkil. Today the port city has monuments built to remember the two important and historical dates.

    History has come to many places, has stayed awhile and, after its departure, has rendered those places famous. In Eritrea’s saga, perhaps no place has taken on greater historic importance than the Northern Red-Sea city of Massawa. There, during three winter days, February 8-11, 1990, the Derg’s fate was sealed. When the operation was over, Mengistu’s circle of trust was in disarray, ‘Operation Fenkil’ would forever hold a place in the minds of all Eritreans.

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  • “ ምፍጣር ሃብቲ፡ ንምዕባይ ኣፍራይነትን ዘላቒ ቁጠባዊ ዕብየትን”

    MoI Eritrea

    ካልኣይ ክፋል ቃል መሕተት ፕረሲደንት ኢሰይያስ ኣፍወርቂ ኣብ ዘቤታዊ ጉዳይ ዘድሃበ እዩ ኔሩ። ብቐንዱ፡ ንደሞዝ ሰራሕተኛታት መንግስቲ፡ መንበሪ ኣባይቲ፡ ወፍርን ትስፉው መጻኢ ዕድላት መንእሰያትን ምምዕባል ዓቕሚ ሰብን ብሰፊሕ ዳህሲሱ።

    ደሞዝ ሰራሕተኛታት መንግስቲ ኣብ ኤርትራ ናቱ ናይ ገዛእ ርእሱ ፍሉይነት ከም ዘለዎን ንመላእ ሕብረተሰብ ኤርትራ እዩ ዝጸልዉ። ልዑል ትኹረት ዝግበረሉ ዕማም’ውን እዩ። እቲ ደሞዝ፡ ኣብዛ ሃገር ናይቲ ኣብ ልምዓት ዝሰርሕ ዘሎ ኣካል ጥራይ ዘይኮነ ንብዙሕ ክፋል ሕብረተሰብ እዩ ዝሽፍን። ምስ ክብሪ ዕዳጋን ናይ ምሽማት ዓቕምን እናተራእየ ንምምሕያሹ ሓያል ጻዕሪ ክግበር ጸኒሑን ኣሎን። ኣብ ዝሓለፈ ዓመታት’ውን ቀዳማዊ መጽናዕቲ ብምግባር ስርዓተ ደሞዝ ንምምሕያሽ መድረኽ ብመድረኽ ንምትዕርራይ ክስራሕ እኳ እንተጸንሐ፡ ደሞዝ ሰራሕተኛታት ስማዊ እዩ ኔሩ። ሓሙሽተ መሳልል ዝሓዘን ካብ 1800 ክሳብ 4000 ዝዝርጋሕ ሲቪላዊ ደሞዝ፡ ብምርግጋእ ዕዳጋ ርጉእ መነባብሮ ክፈጥር ምእንቲ ብዘይምቁራጽ ክጽናዕ ጸኒሑ። ዛጊት እቶም ምስትኽኻል ዘይተግብረሎም ሰራሕተኛታት’ውን ካብ 2018 ዝሕሰብ ምትዕርራይ ክግበረሎም እዩ። ልዕሊ ኹሉ ድማ ናይ ምሽማት ዓቕሚ ናቕፋ ንምምዕባይን ምርግጋእ ዕዳጋ ንምፍጣር ዝተፈላለዩ ስጉምቲታት ኪውሰዱ እዮም።

    ማዕረ ማዕረ እዝን ልዑል ኣገዳስነት ዘለዎ ቀረብ መንበሪ ኣባይቲ ንምስላጥ’ውን ብውሽጣዊ ዓቕሚን ናይ ደገ ኩባንያታትን ንምብጋስ መጽናዕቲ ምውድኡን ኣብዚ ዓመት እዚ ተወዲኡ ናብ ትግባረ ከምርሕ እዩ። ምፍጣር ሃብቲ ካብ ዓበይቲ ዕማማት ናይዚ ዝመጽእ ስራሕ ክኸውን ንምፍጣር ሃብቲ ዘመቻችኡ ኩነት ንምፍጣር፡ ኣብ ጽዓት፡ ትሕተ ቕርጺ፡ መጓዓዝያ መራኸቢታት… ንምውዳድ ክስራሕ እዩ።

    ኣብ ምፍጣር ሃብቲ፡ ንዜጋታት ቀዳምነት ዝህብ እኳ እንተኾነ ኣብ ዘላቒ ምዕባለ ሃገር ዕዙዝ ግደ ክጻወት ዝኽእል ንወጻእተኛተኛታት ፈጠርቲ ሃብቲ ባይታ ክፈጥር ብዝኽእል መገዲ ክስርሓሉ እዩ። ምሕዳስ ወደባት ምጽዋዕን ዓሰብን፡ ምብጋስ ኢንዱስትሪ ሃብቲ ባሕሪ ብዓቢኡ ንገማግም ባሕሪ ዘራብን ስሉጥነት ዝፈጥር ምህናጽ ጽርግያታት ብዓቢኡ ክስርሓሉ እዩ። ምግፋሕ ጽርግያ ዓሰብ ብደባይ ሲማ ኢትዮጵያ፡ መስመር ነፋሲት ማይ ሓባር ደቀምሓረ ሰርሓ ዛላምበሳ በቲ ሓደ፡ ኣስመራ መንደፈራ ክሳድ ዒቃን ከምኡ’ውን ኣስመራ መንሱራ ኣቑርደት ኦምሓጀር ሱዳን ዓቢ ዕማም ኣብ ምስራሕ ይርከብ።

    ብዘይካ እዚ፡ ቀረብ ጽዓት ንምዕዛዝ፡ 30 ሜጋ ኣብ ዓሰብ፡ 20 ሜጋ ኣብ ምጽዋዕ፡ 10 ሜጋ ኣብ ከባቢ ኣስመራ ምስ ሓገዝቲ ጀነሬተራት ካብ መፋርቕ 2020 ክሳብ 2021 ብውሽጣውን ዞባዊ ምትሕብባርን ክጅምር እዩ። ነዚ ንምትግባር ግን ክኢላዊ ሰብኣዊ ዓቕሚ ኣብ ቅድሚት ስለ ዝስራዕ፡ ኣብኡ ኣተኲሩ ዓቢ ስራሕ ክዕመም እዩ።

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    La Tropicale News

    After Biniam Girmay who had burst the screen in 2019 when he had  dominated in Oyem the formidable German sprinter André Greipel , it is again a young Eritrean who won the stage in the chief place of Woleu-Ntem.

    This time it is Natn ael Tesfazion, just 20 years old and who already has a good experience in the  professional environment in the South African continental team  based in Italy, NTT Continental Cycling Team, the second team of the  World Tour which until then was called Dimension Data.

    We saw in the finale that he mastered the science of cycling . He attacked in the last three kilometers accompanied by two French runners Victor Lafay (Cofidis) and Jordan Levasseur (Natura4Ever-Roubaix) but he was the only one to resist the return of the peloton to lead the finish line in extremis . This short stage had been very eventful from start to finish, the peloton had been split in two fairly quickly.

    The Italian yellow jersey Attilio Viviani, winner of the 1 st stage, was released in the second group and  finished the stage 15'32 '' from the  winner. He was obliged to leave the yellow jersey to the Eritrean winner.

    Natnael Tesfazion is the 6 th  Eritrean runner to win the classification  of a stage in the Tropical Amissa Bongo  and the 4 th  to wear the yellow leader jersey after Meron Russom in 2012, Natnael Berhane in 2014 and Tesfom Okubamariam in 2016.

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  • The Cycling life: How Natnael’ shard work led to the Tour De France!

    By Asmait Futsumbrhan |

    He is one of the cyclists that have made their country’s name shine in the cycling world. The Professional Cyclist, Natnael Brhane, not only did succeed in making his dreams come true, he also became an inspiration to young Eritrean potential athletes to follow the virtuous line of Eritrean cycling. “I believe that the Eritrean cyclist possesses a great potential, a potential that would make Eritrea stand out in the cycling world. And I work to set a good example so that many of the great talents would be provided with a platform to have a chance”, says the two-time champion of Africa. Besides earning many titles to his name, Natnael recently became the Champion of Africa 2019, adding more honor and also responsibility as he will be participating at the grand tour --Tour De France 2019 -- which is going to start on the 6th of July. He has the best African cyclist’s record, registered in 2016 in Qatar. The Eritrean professional road racer currently plays for the French Cycling Team, Cofidis. Getting hold of him on his busy schedule as he prepares to leave for the Tour De France, Q & A talks to Natnael about his expedition as a professional athlete.
    • The rise of the star

    I am a person who didn’t have the support of the family at the beginning. My parents never knew that I was into cycling, even when I was contesting at mountain biking. I don’t know how I was influenced to get in to cycling, but I remember that I developed an unconditional love for it. Of course, I lived in a neighborhood where many of the cycling contests were held. Besides, there were many cyclists in my neighborhood, which encouraged me to get into cycling. My family heard my name on the radio when I used to win contests, but they didn’t know that I was the Natnel who was winning the races. Now, they are my biggest fans. My mother tells the story every time she meets people going through the same path.

    • The hurdles and opportunities, the long road to become a professional cyclist

    The only Eritrean who had the opportunity to go to the UCI before me was Daniel Teklehaimanot. However, when I was presented with the chance, I set up my mind to believe that I had to accept and go through whatever obstacles that may come my way, if I was going to succeed in making my dream of becoming a professional cyclist come true. And, as I had anticipated, that journey initiated my career. Here, we didn’t know the proper ways of being a professional athlete. Everything is connected: how you eat, sleep, recover, etc. The lessons shaped me to think and breathe like a professional. By the way I would like to mention that we have a young female cyclist, Desiet Kidane, who is taking lessons at UCI. This makes me very happy.

    Becoming a professional cyclist sure has ups and downs. One of the biggest challenges we have been experiencing is racism. That is something that tags along everywhere. I can have the potential to lead a race, but there is no European cyclist that would want to work for my result, or even be given the chance to lead a race. But this is something that I have to go through to be successful. In 2015, there was an incident many media outlets talked about. During a race, one of the contenders insulted me with an offensive word and threw something at me. But I just didn’t care and carried on with my game. The thing that he threw ended up hitting another contender and it caused a lot of problems. The guy who was hit heard what he called me and told the authorities. They were surprised to find out what he told them was true. That kind of behavior could have made him suspended from competing, but I didn’t sue. This is just a simple example of what we go through as African professional cyclists. That is why I push to work hard, so that we would be recognized for our talents and many Eritrean cyclists would be presented with a chance to be the best they can be in cycling.

    • A two time Champion of Africa, still making a head way across the globe

    Over the years, I have participated in many contests such as World Champion, Tour de France, Jero de Italia, and Tour of Turkey in addition to local tours. These are just few of the major races I participated in. I have been fortunate to win in many races: I won the Tour of Algeria 2012. Again, one of the biggest races in Europe, Tour Turkey 2013, I was able to win the stage race and receive the yellow jersey, making me the first African to win in a European race. At Tour Gabon 2014, I became the first African to ever win the stage race. But that wasn’t the first time to make history there; I had also participated in Tour of Gabon in 2011 with the National Team where I won I stage. I also finished 2nd to the yellow jersey in Tour of Rwanda 2 0 1 0 . During t h e interview, a f t e r r e c e iving my award, I told them that I dreamt of becoming the first African to win the race. The dream came true in 2014 and that was one of my happiest moments. Besides winning twice the Eritrean champion 2015 and 2019, becoming a two-time African champion 2011 and 2012 is what I consider to be one of my best accomplishments. Whenever I watch the video of the African Champion 2011, I still get emotional. Hosting the game here puts an immense responsibility on the contenders. Not only that, but mind you, it wasn’t just a race that cycling fans watched, it was a championship the whole country anticipated with passion. To see the whole country rejoice for winning the title meant the world to me.

    Also, talking of the recent championship of Eritrea 2019, it was an excellent r a c e . Every one prepared well and s h o w e d a great competency. It was one of the best races I have ever been to. Of course, I prepared well and worked hard to win the title. If you have a big contest planned right after a competition, it motivates you to work hard on it. That is why, becoming a champion was important for me since I am going to take part in Tour de France 2019. While on topic, I would like to express my appreciation for Robel Tewelde who won third place, for his skills and proficiency. I believe he did well and he deserves support.

    • Preparing for Tour De France 2019

    Winning the championship has its honors and responsibilities. To participate in one of the biggest cycling races wearing a customized shirt with my flag, besides being the only Eritrean and few of African contenders, is going to make me feel honored and would make me carry a great burden to keep up the good work. This is also a great inspiration for the young Eritreans who have a great talent for cycling. Let me tell you something. I didn’t have the big dreams to be in big races such as the Tour de France; all that I cared about was to get to the first division just like the senior cyclists. But now, these kids have icons to look up to that were able to participate in international races and who managed to win many titles. This will make them upgrade their potential to get there. So, I have trained well and I am ready to be at the Tour de France. My first week will focus on working for the team result. Afterwards, the second and third week, I will be sprinting to get in rank. This is what I am working on, and I hope that I would come out as one of the winners

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  • Interview Tiffany Hadish

    “I don’t want to have to ask permission to come and see my people, I want to come when I want to come to be with my people”, Actress and Author Tiffanny Hadish

    No introduction needed to who she is. After her first visit last year, the Black Unicorn is back to celebrate the 28th Independence celebrations with her people in Eritrea. Ever since her recent reconnection with her Eritrean heritage, Tiffany has proudly been in-touch with her Eritrean side. Now that she is here to celebrate the biggest and glorious day for Eritreans, she managed to visit a number of places including the historical trenches of Nakfa, where she actually conducted the interview.

    -Welcome back Tiffanny, what new changes have you noticed since your last visit?

    I have seen a lot of things and advancements. For example, the roads to Massawa are not as bumpy as they used to be, it was a smooth and very nice ride. I love the roads to Massawa. I have also noticed more internet cafes which I was excited about, a lot more farmlands, which is really exciting to me, and more livestock. Most of all, the President showed me the amazingly beautiful Dams.

    -You have travelled to a number of places during your stay, how did you enjoy them?

    I have been to Asmara, Massawa, Dihil Island and Nakfa. Dihil is an Island where the Afar ethnicity inhabits. The food was really good and I enjoyed the singing and dancing. I also went to sleep in one of their traditional beds outdoors with the stars and everything, I was just knocked out, and it was so good. It was wonderful. And my most favorite place of all was the hot springs at Mai Wuei. It is a beautiful place; the hot springs have helped me with my knees, which I recently have just hurt.

    -Tiffany, you are here for the independence celebration, how does it make you feel, especially with the peace situation that the country has recently embarked on?

    Coming to Eritrea at the time where it celebrates its independence week, there have been many events I attended which one of them was the carnival. It was so much fun and I am happy that I could be part of it. All our freedom fighters sacrificed their lives to make sure that we have our independence and our own land. Personally, I feel like it’s not recognized enough.

    Now, we are here in Nakfa, the home of the heroes; the freedom fighters. The homes of the people were bombed and had to move away but they took care of the freedom fighters and look out for them. To be walking those trenches and seeing how they were defending their lands with the enemy just steps away, we had these people willing to sacrifice and to be strong. I was going through every emotion at the book. I was feeling every emotion you could feel. I am still feeling it. It is a lot of pain. Still is beautiful. Those trenches are Eritrean version of the Great Wall of China, the great trenches of Eritrea. I saw the trenches and I keep thinking to myself that, would I have done that? Would I have done all the things they did? So my gratitude, I am so grateful that they did that and were willing to sacrifice for the future, for their children and grandchildren. To me it’s a lot; it is a lot of emotions that I am dealing with. I am trying to figure out how to process all of this. I couldn’t imagine how someone could be lived through it and survived. I know it had to hurt tremendously to see someone that you care about die right in front of you and your home blowing up right in front of you. It is a sad situation. And the fact that I didn’t know about it for so long makes me really upset. I don’t understand why they don’t talk about it anywhere else in the world. But the fact that I am here now, and be able to celebrate those people that paid their lives for this, to show gratitude and appreciation, with every one teaming up and staying strong and not giving up, to me is amazing and I am grateful.

    I also got my citizenship here in Eritrea. Signing those papers and getting the validation meant the world to me. That is something my father wanted. I love my father so much and maybe he didn’t get to raise me but he installed enough for me in my blood. He thought me a lot during the time I did get to spend with him. I want to honor him and I just want to be a good daughter. I want to help my family who still live here and want to do good things for them. I always had to ask permission to come and see my family and people but I don’t like that I had to ask permission to see my family. Now I got my citizenship and I can come and see my family when I want to see my family. I don’t want to have to ask permission to come see my people.

    -Before we conclude our interview, would you please share with us what you have been up to since your last visit?

    Well, I started my own productions, the she ready productions. I am putting together TV shows and movies. One of my goals is to come here and make some movies and take the opportunity to give them good line of movies and really get it out in the world. To make sure the world can see how beautiful the people and Eritrea is. We got great stories to tell that the world needs to know about. I also got cartoons coming out. My goal is to one day own my own studio so that people who work with me have a generational wealth.

    -Well thank you for having us, before we say our good byes, do you have anything to say?

    I am so happy my daddy was born here because now I have a place to go, as a citizen of Eritrea, I am happy to be home and I can’t wait to keep coming back home and learning more and more to share with the world. The world needs to know how amazing this place is.

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