In 1977 Nakfa fell in the hands of the Eritrean People’s Liberation front and remained under it until the end, Eritrean Independence. The trenches from huge rocks split by hoes and hammers and other small equipment defending Nakfa were built by the fighters amidst the aerial bombings and shelling. From the holding stations for the reserve groups, to underground care centers, command posts, to the never ending curves of trenches, everything is breathtakingly inspiring.
The stone structures, dug deep underground, served not just as the protective shelters for the fighters, but became places where friendship were cemented, commitment and courage displayed, pain and hurt shared, and where the fate for Eritrea and her people was laid. From here the Eritrean freedom fighters have gone through trying times, endured and fought and clambered up a steep slope to prove themselves strong. The endurance they have displayed coupled with perseverance in the face of conspiracy has helped Eritreans outlast subjugation, dependence, indecency and other ignoble human qualities.
From Nakfa, right from 1977, a unique sense of nationalism, and nationhood was born, and the gallant fighters knew that nothing was to deter them to continue their struggle with determination to the end until the occupation forces are routed out from Eritrea. They knew within their hearts that whatever the circumstance their commitment, courage, tolerance, and readiness to face whatever challenge was what matters for them.
The attempts of the Ethiopian regime to recapture Nakfa miserably failed and the enemy forces became so weak that after Nakfa the major towns and cities of Eritrea, except Asmara, Massawa and Barentu, fell in the hands of the EPLF fighters. Asmara was encircled and was looking for its final day until the major powers came to the rescue of the Derge regime.
The Derge regime, which took power in Ethiopia as the result of power vacuum in that country after the fall of Haileselesie regime immediately claimed it was a communist regime and sided with the Soviet Union. The Soviets in return began to supply the Derge regime with whatever military hardware, fighter jets they felt enough to crash the EPLF forces. They also trained hundred of thousands of soldiers. And in 1978, the Derge regime, convinced it had the necessary military equipment and ready and trained personnel, launched its military operation through different fronts with different military task forces such as 501, 502, 503, and 505 military task forces. However, it was not easy to crash the Eritrean forces as simple as that. With all the military equipment, ground, air and naval forces coupled with interferences of foreign powers, the liberation forces were not found to give up easily. Hence, the Derge regime in its bid to destroy the EPLF had to lunch seven separate offensives until it was totally impotent and easy to rout it out from the country.
The first military offensive was launched on the 13th of June, 1978, from four fronts. The first front was launched by 503 task force from Girhu Sernay with the assignment to go all the way through Tsorena, and Dekemhare. The second front through Ksad Ika, Adi Quala, and Mendefera, convinced in its way will wipe out the EPLF forces. The third front was by 502 task force assigned to march all the way through Shambuko and Gash to Barentu. The 501 task force was assigned to capture Tesenei through Omhajer. At fifth front the 505 task force came with assignment to clear the EPLF forces stationed in Semhar plains. The sixth front was through Dogali strait to the north.
All the Derge military operations from the five fronts were not able to hit their target due to the strong resistance they encountered from the liberation forces. The Derge regime had not the slightest clue that it would launch seven military operations. It was so convinced, with the huge supply of arms it received from the Soviets and others; it will crash the armed struggle for independence within days of the first offensive. However, the reality on the ground was very different; it was faced with determined and steadfast forces and was forced to give up its offensive until it reinforces its much weakened military supplies and personnel. The first military offensive was foiled within days.
The second military offensive was launched some months later after the failed 1st offensive from three fronts, north, east, and west. From the north through Adi Yakob; from the east through Dogali and from the west through Ingerne to Afabet. The wise decision of the EPLF leadership to strategically withdraw during this operation was one of the heavy blows to the Derge’s appetite, which believed ones again that it will crash the movement once and for all. With its second military offensive the Derge regime remained empty handed and did not realize what the EPLF had in mind in conducting strategic withdrawal.