Battle of Hedai Valley, March 1988 – one of the EPLF’s greatest victories

17 March 1988 EPLF deployed troops on three sides around Hedai Valley wiping out their tanks and heavy artillery

It is hard to overestimate how important this battle was.

You can read an account of it here. Some 15,000 Eritrean fighters under Mesfin Hagos took on a much larger Ethiopian force (20,000 – 22,000 Ethiopian troops, with Soviet advisers) armed with tanks, heavy artillery and with cover from the Ethiopian air force.

Despite these advantages, the Eritreans fighters managed to block the convoy in the narrow valley, trapping them and wiping them out.

This assessment was provided by Berhane Woldemichael in the periodical Review of African Political Economy.

“The significance to the Ethiopian regime of the loss of Afabet cannot be overstated. In this single battle, Ethiopia lost whole divisions of its best trained and armed troops. Worse still, it left behind a weapons stockpile that it had amassed to carry out what it believed was to have been ‘a decisive offensive’ against the EPLF. That ‘decisive offensive’ was being planned by Soviet military advisors. As it was, the EPLF, clearly outsmarting the Soviets, turned around the ‘planned offensive’ to their advantage. The Soviet Union had always denied direct involvement in Eritrea but was caught red-handed by the EPLF at Afabet by the capture of three Soviet military personnel, another one was killed in the combat.”

I saw the ruined tanks, and rusting guns when I visited the area. The photograph above is by David Stewart-Smith and is dated 12/1989

It’s caption reads: “Town of Alfebet [sic.] captured in March 88, major victory of the EPLF – destroyed tanks, vehicles, etc.”


  1. What did we get out of that victory. Where did we go wrong.
    To me that type of victory brought us disaster after disaster. It is a sad reminder

    1. Lona,
      Your anger with the government is clouding your vision. Thanks to those battles and those heroes, Eritrean people now have a country.

      Seeing the revolutionary war as some sort of cause for what is happening now is hugely mistaken. There is no causal connection. I don’t know what you have studied or how much you understand about the world dynamics, but Eritrea is where it is because of foreign interference. Foreign interference explains the long years of no-war-no-peace after the border commission. Ask yourself this question: “Who was TPLF relying when they refused to leave the borders after the border commission all this years?” The answer to that, will explain everything that is happening to your country. The answer to that will explain your suffering economy. The answer to that will also explain the mass exodus of young people from Eritrea. Then ask why.

      Advice for you: open your eyes, and educate yourself. You will then be able to see details in the forest.

    2. Well, that victory speed up the unthinkable victory and creation of the state of Eritrea.

    3. If you read the comments provided here, and educate yourself, you will become the happiest person.

  2. What we get out of the victories are simply and easily the common country that me and you we can talk about.

  3. Lona, don’t just focus on your current situation, try to look beyond the horizon. The world politics is way complex than you can think. The best things that can happen to you is if you try to educate yourself that way you can clearly see the difference between one of the greatest battlefield victories of the world or no victory at all. Do favor to yourself, learn to become better you! Eritrea forever

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