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Conflict Weekly
End of a Fragile Peace in Gaza, and a Failed Coup in Sierra Leone

  IPRI Team

Conflict Weekly #204, 30 November 2023, Vol.4, No.48
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI and the India Office of the KAS

Shamini Velayutham and Anu Maria Joseph

Gaza: End of a Fragile Pause
Shamini Velayutham

In the news
On 24 November, an agreement resulted in the release of the first groups of Israelis and Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis, ten Thai nationals and one Filipino national were among the hostages freed from Gaza. Israel released thirty-nine Palestinian women and children. Under the terms of the truce, aid has started to arrive, including much-needed fuel arriving from Egypt.

On 25 November, following the release of thirteen Israeli hostages from Gaza, Israel freed thirty-nine Palestinian inmates. The Hamas military wing stated that it was delaying the release as Israel failed to adhere to the truce agreement, and claimed that Israel had blocked the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip. Israel had allowed 200 trucks into the border as per the deal.  

On 26 November, Hamas released seventeen hostages; 39 Palestinians including a juvenile were released by Israel. 

On 27 November, Israel and Hamas freed the fourth group of hostages. According to a spokesperson for Qatar's Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Israel-Hamas truce has been agreed to be extended for an additional two days. 

On 28 November, eleven Israeli hostages were released and thirty children and three Palestinian women were freed by Israel.

On 29 November, sixteen hostages were released from Gaza, comprising ten Israelis, four Thai nationals and two Israeli-Russians. They included an Israeli-US dual citizen. Thirty Palestinians were freed. 

On 30 November, the truce agreement was extended to the seventh day. Both parties agreed to extend the truce for 24 hours. Meanwhile, the talks between the two parties were strained as Israel released Palestinian women and children and it provided Hamas to demand more hostages in return for Israeli men and soldiers.  

Issues at large
First, the fragile peace and objectives. Both Israel and Hamas face strategic difficulties. The only leverage Hamas has over Israel is the hostages. For Israel, the only thing that has made it pause the seven weeks of combat is the promise to free the hostages. The expanding demands of Hamas pushed Israel to open its humanitarian supply in the porous borders. The Hamas military wing claims it is withholding the release until the occupation complies with the agreement about the entry of relief trucks into the northern Gaza Strip. 

Second, the external pressure on Israel and the mediating role of Qatar, Egypt and the US. The US has been applying increasing pressure to Netanyahu and Israel's war cabinet in recent weeks as US President Joe Biden has been dealing with mounting public and Democratic party dissatisfaction with the civilian casualty rate in Gaza. The overwhelming weight of global condemnation, particularly from the Arab and Muslim worlds, of Israel's attack on Gaza has aided Hamas. Qatar has been playing a crucial role in the Israel and Hamas conflict and has condemned the results of Israel’s occupation and Hamas's attack on Israel on 7 October. 

Third, the humanitarian crisis. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Gaza's overcrowding, lack of food, water, sanitation and basic hygiene are accelerating the spread of disease. It further said that among the roughly 1.3 million displaced Palestinians in Gaza, an increasing number of diseases had been brought on by the absence of a working infrastructure and access to medicine. Despite the truce between Israel and Hamas, there is still not enough fuel and aid reaching Gaza. 
 



Sierra Leone: A failed coup
Anu Maria Joseph

In the news
On 27 November, BBC Africa reported that at least 19 people, including 13 soldiers, were killed during violence on 26 November when a group of armed men attacked military barracks and prisons releasing several inmates. 

On 26 November, Reuters reported on one of the perpetrators chanting: "We'll clean this society. We know what we are up to. We are not after any ordinary civilians who should go about their normal business." 

On 28 November, the Minister of Information and Civic Education, Chernoh Bah, stated: "The incident was a failed attempted coup. The intention was to illegally subvert and overthrow a democratically elected government.” He claimed that several current and former security officials who were involved in the violence were arrested. Sierra Leone’s President, Julius Maada Bio, stated: "We will ensure that those responsible are held accountable. As your commander-in-chief, I want to assure everybody who is resident in Sierra Leone that we have overcome this challenge." Following the violence, a nine-hour curfew was imposed, which was revoked at a later stage.

The US, the EU, the UK and ECOWAS condemned the violence. ECOWAS described the violence as an attempt by certain individuals to "acquire arms and disturb constitutional order" and emphasised “its zero tolerance for unconstitutional change of government.” The bloc further stated: "ECOWAS further underscores its commitment to supporting the government and people of Sierra Leone to deepen democracy and good governance, consolidate peace and security as well as foster socio-economic development.”

The US embassy in Sierra Leone condemning the violence, asserted its support for “a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Sierra Leone.”

Issues at large
First, a brief background to Sierra Leone’s political crisis. The country became independent in 1961; however, the post-independence period was challenged by a series of coups and a civil war. Ever since the 1991 civil war, there have been several military and democratic regimes. In 2003, the civil war ended with the assistance of a UN peacekeeping mission. The country continues to struggle with the effects of civil war.

Second, the recent triggers. Since the controversial elections in June 2023, Sierra Leone has been challenged by a series of political drawbacks. President Julius Maada Bio was re-elected for a second term in June after securing 56 per cent of votes, narrowly avoiding a run-off. International observers, including the EU Election Observation Mission Sierra Leone 2023 (EUEOM), had raised concerns regarding the transparency of the elections. The head of the US-based Carter Center's election observer team, Cameron Hume, confirmed inconsistencies during the ballot count. The main opposition party, All People’s Congress (APC),  boycotted the presidential, legislative, and local elections, citing similar accusations. APC alleged that their electoral agents could not verify the vote counting. Instances of intimidation and violence were reported during the elections. One of the APC supporters was killed in a clash when security forces tried to disband the crowd at the APC headquarters in Freetown. Besides, there was a coup attempt in August. Several people, including senior military officials and former chief of police, were arrested following the coup plot, which the government described as an attempt to “undermine the peace and tranquillity of the state.” 

Third, the political divide within and between. Socially, multiple ethnic and tribal groups co-exist peacefully in the country. However, politics is deeply divided socially and institutionally. Ethnic identities are often leveraged for political power. The northern-based APC often ties with the Temne community, which represents 35 per cent of the population, and the southern-based Sierra Leone’s People Party (SLPP) is associated with the Mende community, which is 31 per cent of the population. The divide is in such a way that the population supporting the ruling party tends to have access to more influence and opportunities. Even the military forces are politically divided within, wherein promotions, retirement, and transfer depend on whether they are affiliated with the ruling or the opposition party. Although Sierra Leone has a constitutionally de jure judiciary, there is hardly any case that was judged against the ruling government and its political interests.

Fourth, the economic discontent. Julius Maada came to power in 2018, promising to address the economic crisis and corruption. However, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), nearly 60 per cent of the population lives in poverty. According to Trading Economics, in September, the inflation in the country was recorded to be nearly 58 per cent, the highest recorded since 1998. An economy that depends on imports for consumer goods has a higher inflation rate often caused by external economic shocks. Economic instability is coupled with vast unemployment. At least 20 people were killed in anti-government protests in August 2022 that were against the worsening economic crisis and the failure of the government to address the rising cost of living.

In perspective
A popular narrative is that the coup attempt was influenced by the series of coups in the region. Other West African countries, including Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Gabon, recently witnessed coups, owing to multifaceted insurgency and insecurity issues and the military’s upper hand. Unlike them, the coup attempt in Sierra Leone was merely politically motivated. It implies that Sierra Leone’s state institutions are politically divided and that the elections represent a shift of influence and opportunities rather than a political shift. While half of the population is discontent with Bio’s administration, more similar attempts for a coup are likely to happen because considering the three failed coup attempts last year.


Conflict Weekly Special
The War in Gaza: Sixth Week
Rosemary Kurian, Nuha Aamina, Rishita Verma, and Gananthula Uma Maheshwari

War on the ground
On 1 December, after the seven-day temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas expired, fighting returned to Gaza. Since the temporary ceasefire ended on the morning of 1 December, more than 100 people died in Gaza, according to the Ministry of Health run by Hamas.

On 30 November, Hamas stated that two of its assailants opened fire at a bus stop in Jerusalem, killing three Israelis and injuring at least six others. Hamas explained that this was because of Israeli “crimes” throughout Gaza. 

On 29 November, Israel claimed that it had killed “two senior terrorists” in a raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. 

On 28 November, the BBC quoted the Israeli military that several of their soldiers were “lightly injured” in northern Gaza. Hamas confirmed that there had been fighting, however, placed the blame on Israel and maintained its commitment to the interim cease-fire.

On 27 November, Israel stated that negotiations over the hostage situation and the anticipated release of prisoners were ongoing. The temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas extended through ongoing international efforts. While Hamas claimed it was requesting an extension, Israel was offering a one-day ceasefire for every ten more hostages freed from Gaza.

On 26 November, more Israeli hostages were released. In addition, over two days, 78 Palestinian inmates were freed from Israeli prisons. In the meantime, as part of an independent agreement between Hamas and the Egyptian government, 14 Thai hostages and one Filipino were released.

On 26 November, a Saudi Arabia-based humanitarian organisation sent relief convoys into Gaza via the Rafah crossing, carrying food, medicine and shelter supplies. The aid was divided among several trucks which would be unloaded at the Rafah crossing on the Palestinian side.

On 25 November, images from the Gaza Strip showed lengthy queues for supplies and gasoline in Rafah. 

On 24 November, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern over the fate of Muhammad Abu Salmiya, the director of the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, who was arrested earlier this week by Israel. According to the WHO: “Three medical personnel from the Palestine Red Crescent Society and three from the Ministry of Health were detained.” 

Regional responses
On 1 December, Reuters reported that the King of Jordan, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, urged UN aid officials and international groups to increase pressure on Israel to allow more aid into Gaza. 

On 1 December, the transfer of aid from Egypt to the Gaza Strip was halted at the Rafah border, as the humanitarian truce had ended that day. Egyptian security and aid sources commented that the amount of aid which was delivered during the truce period was far less than what was required. 

On 30 November, Egypt's state media, the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), reported that the negotiators in the Gaza war, Egypt and Qatar, were trying to extend the humanitarian truce by two more days. This would involve releasing more prisoners and increasing humanitarian aid. 

On 27 November,  Palestinian Authority's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riyad Al-Maliki, stated that Qatar, Egypt, the US and the EU along with Spain, were working to extend the ceasefire in Gaza. 

On 27 November, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, arrived in Barcelona to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas. Prince Faisal stated: “The only sure result is more destruction, radicalization and further conflict at the expense of Palestinian lives, as well as regional security, including that of Israel.” 

On 26 November, the Prime Minister of Jordan, Bisher Khasawneh, called the displacement of Palestinians a “red line” that constitutes a fundamental violation of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. 

On 26 November, Syrian media claimed that the Damascus International Airport was attacked by Israel. Flights scheduled to arrive at the airport were diverted to airports in Latakia and Aleppo. 

On 25 November, Jordan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ayman Safadi, labelled 2023 as the bloodiest year for Palestinians in a decade. He stressed the importance of working with the international community to stop the war.

On 25 November, Arab News reported that UAE, Bahrain, Yemen and the Arab League condemned a statement by Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician, which called for the displacement of Palestinians to Jordan. The embassy of the UAE in the Netherlands responded saying that it stands in solidarity with Jordan, respecting its sovereignty. 

Global responses
On 1 December, Reuters quoted a senior US State Department official that the US would impose a visa ban on extremist settlers inflicting violence on Palestinians in the West Bank. The announcement came at a time of increased settler violence against Palestinians in the region. 

On 1 December, BBC reported that the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, stated the strongest American remarks so far against civilian casualties in Gaza. He laid out benchmarks for Israel’s war on Gaza, and stated that it was “imperative for the United States that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale that we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south."

On 30 November, the Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, expressed his doubts over Israeli compliance with International Humanitarian Law in the war. He denounced the killings in Gaza, calling them “not acceptable.”

On 30 November, China issued a proposal for the UN Security Council (UNSC) to resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict. It urged the council to convene an “authoritative and effective” peace conference at the earliest.

On 29 November, the UN observed the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. At the UN headquarters in New York, an exhibit called "Palestine – a Land with a People" was displayed. To commemorate the day, marches and protests took place around the world, including Lebanon, Germany, Bangladesh and South Africa.

On 29 November, trade unions in India urged the government to support Palestine. Ten prominent trade unions issued a joint statement saying that Israel’s occupation in Palestine had “decimated” the latter’s economy, making it dependent on Israel for employment. 

On 28 November, the WHO warned that more people could die of diseases than bombing in Gaza. Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the WHO, expressed her concerns over the rise in outbreaks of infectious diseases in the Gaza Strip, referring to a UN report on living conditions in northern Gaza. 

On 28 November, William Burns, the Director of the CIA, and David Barnea, the Mossad chief, met Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, the Prime Minister of Qatar, to “build on” the two-day extension of the truce between Israel and Hamas.

On 27 November, the BBC reported that the US Navy captured five armed men responsible for seizing an Israeli-linked commercial tanker off the coast of Yemen on 26 November. The assailants were caught by the USS Mason, an American warship. 

On 27 November, Elon Musk, an American tech entrepreneur, lent his support to Israel in its mission to destroy Hamas, during an unprecedented visit to Israel. The owner of the social media platform X, expressed the need to end all propaganda that prompted the attack on 7 October.
On 26 November, a UN official noted that the deliveries of humanitarian aid to northern Gaza had caused “immense relief”. Northern Gaza, which was cut off for weeks, finally received aid during the truce period after UN agencies secured safe passage into the region. 

On 26 November, Al Jazeera reported on the White House’s request to the US Senate to scrap restrictions on its key weapons stockpile, enabling easy access to Israel. In its latest supplementary budget, the White House proposed changes to the War Reserve Stockpile Allies- Israel (WRSA-I) policies, a US weapons stockpile based in Israel for US use during regional conflicts. 

On 24 November, Joe Biden, the President of the US, stated that the chances of extending the four-day truce were “real”. He expressed that the US and the Arab world want to “bring this to an end” soon, but reiterated his support for Israel by stating that the elimination of Hamas was a “legitimate” cause for Israel.

On 24 November, Pedro Sanchez, the Prime Minister of Spain, denounced the “indiscriminate killing of Palestinians” in Gaza, calling it “unacceptable during a visit to the war-torn enclave. 

On 24 November David Cameron, the Foreign Secretary of the UK, stated that casualties in the war in Gaza were “too high.” Cameron reiterated Israel’s right to self-defence but stated that a “continuous dialogue” with Israel was in place to discuss international humanitarian law as well as civilian casualties. 


Curated by Dhriti Mukherjee and Shamini Velayutham, Research Assistants at NIAS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issues in Peace and Conflict This Week:
Regional Roundups

Rohini Reenum, Rishika Yadav, Anu Maria Joseph, Femy Francis, Padmashree Anandhan, Dhriti Mukherjee and Shamini Velayutham
 
East and Southeast Asia
China: Surge recorded in the number of respiratory illnesses 
On 27 November, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the spike in the number of respiratory illnesses in China is not as high as before the COVID-19 pandemic, reiterating that no new pathogens had been found in the recent cases. The Acting Director of the WHO’s Department of Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness and Prevention, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, stated that the increase in the number of children contracting pathogens was because of the two years of COVID-19 restrictions that kept them away from exposure to such pathogens. Kerkhove stated: “We asked about comparisons prior to the pandemic. And the waves that they’re seeing now – the peak is not as high as what they saw from 2018 to 2019. This is not an indication of a novel pathogen. This is expected. This is what most countries dealt with a year or two ago.” China’s National Health Commission spokesperson, Mi Feng, commented that the surge in acute respiratory illnesses was linked to the simultaneous circulation of several kinds of pathogens, most prominently influenza. The development comes after China’s National Health Commission reported an unusual number of cases of pneumonia in children in the capital Beijing and the city of Liaoning in northern China. 

China: Military exercise held amid lingering tension in the China-Myanmar border
On 27 November, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began its “combat training activities” near the China-Myanmar border. It deployed howitzers and counter-battery radars for its ongoing live-fire exercise. China Central Television (CCTV), a state-owned media, reported that the PLA’s Southern Theater Command organised the three-day combat exercise. The PLA stated that this action was taken to prevent any spillover effect of the instability in Myanmar. A Chinese military expert, Zhang Junshe, told the Global Times that the exercise enhances the PLA’s fast manoeuvring capability allowing it to take positions for combat rapidly. The development comes after the ethnic militant group in Myanmar, Three Brotherhood Alliance, carried out attacks and captured several towns in the Kyin-San-Kyawt border region in the state of Shan.

China: Efforts made to push peace between Israel and Gaza at UNSC
On 28 November, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, is poised to chair a UN Security Council on 29 November, seeking to extend the fragile truce in the Israel-Gaza conflict. This meeting marks Beijing's final effort to broker peace before its monthly presidency concludes. China has consistently advocated for a "two-state" solution as the sole path to ending the conflict. Previously, on 20 November, Beijing hosted an Arab and Islamic delegation to rally the international community to help resolve the Israel-Gaza conflict.

North Korea: Embassies in Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo shut
On 30 November, North Korea closed its embassies in the Democratic Republic of Congo following the closure of its embassy in Bangladesh on 27 November. It marked the seventh shutdown in a month, following closures in Spain, Hong Kong, Uganda, Angola and Nepal. The state media, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), attributed closures to “changed international environment and national foreign policy,” hinting at new missions elsewhere. Economic strain and strict UN sanctions likely drove these closures, suggesting more might follow. 

South Asia
Afghanistan: Meeting held in Moscow to discuss the future of the country
On 23 November, a meeting was held in Moscow, under the title “Afghanistan in the past and future.” It was attended by the opponents of the Taliban government, which included former officials of the Afghan government and envoys from countries including Iran and Russia. The agenda of discussion was on the formation of an inclusive government, the situation of women and the UN activities in Afghanistan. Iran highlighted the Islamic Emirate’s role in fighting the Islamic State (IS) group in the region. In response to the meeting, the Islamic Emirate’s spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid, stated that Kabul had not been invited, and underscored the fact that such meetings would not benefit Afghanistan. He also requested its neighbouring countries to not “create sedition among Afghans.”

Pakistan: Suicide attack leaves two dead and ten wounded in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
On 26 November, a convoy of security forces was the target of a suicide attack in the Bala Khel in the district of Bannu in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The attack resulted in the death of two civilians and wounded ten others, out of which three were Pakistani soldiers. The Inter-Services Public Relations stated that the bomber was affiliated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and was later identified as an Afghan national. The statement further revealed that a “sanitisation operation is being carried out to eliminate any other terrorists found in the area. Security forces of Pakistan are determined to eliminate the menace of terrorism and such sacrifices of our brave civilians and soldiers further strengthen our resolve.” 

Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa
Iran: New destroyer added to naval fleet in the Caspian Sea
On 27 November, Iran added Deilaman, a destroyer that is capable of launching cruise missiles, to its Caspian Sea fleet. The state-owned news agency, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), highlighted that Deilaman is 1400 tons, 95 metres long, 11 metres wide and capable of launching torpedoes at 30 knots. The Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff, Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, termed the Caspian a “sea of peace and friendship.” Additionally, he stated that Iran’s naval power in the region would serve “peace, security of commercial fleets, confronting terrorists and probable incidents in the future.”

Syria: Air strikes on Damascus airport
On 26 November, Israeli forces carried out air strikes targeting the Damascus airport. The airstrike placed the airport in an inoperable state. The Syrian army stated that Israel had been attacking the airports in  Aleppo and Damascus. It added that its air defences expropriated Israeli missiles flying from the Golan Heights. Further, the army stated that the Israeli strikes have caused infrastructure loss. Despite the accusations put forth, the Israeli military has not made any comments.

Burkina Faso: 40 civilians killed in militant attack
On 28 November, BBC Africa reported that at least 40 civilians were killed in an Islamist militant attack in northern Burkina Faso. The Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), an Islamist militant group active in West Africa, attacked the city of Djibo. The country has been battling insurgency since 2015. 

Nigeria: 100 people abducted in Zamfara
On 26 November, BBC Africa reported that at least 100 people were abducted by bandits in the state of Zamfara in northwest Nigeria. Gunmen, locally known as bandits, who came on motorcycles, stormed the village and abducted people. A witness told BBC that the residents were kidnapped after they failed to pay the tax imposed by the gunmen. One of the villagers told BBC that the leader of the armed gang, Damana, controls the majority of the region in the absence of state security forces. Currently, Nigeria faces multifaceted security issues including the jihadist insurgency in the north, farmer-herder clashes and separatist insurgency in the southeast and bandits in the Niger Delta. 

Niger: Junta overturns anti-migrant smuggling law
On 27 November, the Niger junta overturned an eight-year-old law that criminalised migrant smuggling. The junta stated that the law “did not take into account the interests of Niger and its citizens.” This law was passed in 2015 after a million asylum seekers and migrants tried to reach Europe through illegal and dangerous means. The implementation of the law had resulted in a decrease in illegal people smuggling. The easing of the law is likely to cause a reemergence of trafficking gangs. 

Morocco: Alliance formed with the EU to tackle extremism
On 24 November, the EU and Morocco launched an initiative against extremism through educational means. It is a two-year initiative aimed at countering and preventing violent extremism. During the 21st Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, stated that the primary goal of the forum is to “provide individuals with access to education and to help them develop the capacities necessary to challenge extremist narratives and promote peace.” The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Joseph Borell, asserted that “the program aims to help develop societies that are more tolerant and resilient against terrorism and violent extremism.”

Europe 
Sweden: Tesla wins lawsuit against Swedish transport agency over licence plate delivery dispute
On 27 November, after Swedish postal workers refused to deliver Tesla license plates, a Swedish court ruled that Tesla could collect the plates for its cars from Sweden’s Transport Agency. The court added that the agency had seven days to agree to this or risk paying a fine of USD 96,000. Tesla had earlier sued the agency which said that as per contracts, it is bound to the government’s postal service, PostNord. PostNord’s employees stopped making deliveries to Tesla for the last week, in solidarity with Tesla’s mechanics who have been on strike since October following Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s refusal to recognise their union. Musk, who had described the actions of the postal workers as “insane,” has hailed the court ruling as a victory. 

Czech Republic: Unions protest over austerity measures
On 27 November, labour unions in the Czech Republic organised widespread strikes, opposing the government’s austerity measures. They demanded higher funding for education and healthcare while denouncing pension system changes. The austerity measures included taxes on alcohol, medicine, and corporate profits, as part of the government’s plan to curb a growing deficit. Czech Republic’s Prime Minister, Petr Fiala, defended the measures, emphasising their necessity to control state indebtedness. Massive demonstrations in Prague attracted thousands, with unions vowing to stage more protests if negotiations were not considered. Schools and companies also participated in strikes, marking the largest protests since the country’s inception in 1993.

Finland: Border closure with Russia reinforced
On 27 November, Finland’s Prime Minister Petteri Orpo announced the decision to close the last border crossing with Russia. The last crossing point is located in the northern Murmansk region. Orpo stated: “Finland is protecting the European Union's external border and NATO's border. We will not let this phenomenon continue.” On 23 November, the EU border agency, Frontex, stated that it intended to send 50 officers and equipment to aid Finland’s border, to halt an asylum surge that it reportedly instigated by Russia.  Russia criticised Finland’s abrupt closure of checkpoints, calling it provocative and stating that it lacked prior consultation. Finland’s border guard reported 415 individuals seeking asylum with insufficient documents, suspecting a foreign state’s involvement in illegal border crossings.

Latin America and the US
Cuba: Government officials join in march demanding an end to Gaza war
On 23 November, thousands of Cubans marched in Havana, led by Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel, showcasing solidarity with Palestinians and calling for an end to the war in Gaza. Cuba’s Prime Minister Manuel Marrano Cruz and Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla joined the two kilometres walk along with protesters holding “Free Palestine” posters and photographs of injured children. This is the second time that officials have joined marches demanding an end to the war. A Palestinian in Cuba said that the march “makes people feel that Palestine is not alone.”

Haiti: Gang violence plagues rural central parts
On 28 November, the UN released a report claiming that the once peaceful area of central rural Haiti is facing kidnappings, killings and rapes. The area of Lower Artibonite has a few powerful gangs that have taken advantage of communities with a minimal reach of the police and government institutions. This has resulted in “murders, sexual violence, theft, destruction of property and other abuses” being committed on a “daily basis.” The report stated that between January 2022 and October 2023, more than 1,690 murders and 1,118 kidnappings have occurred and 22,000 have been forced to leave their homes. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) added that more than half of those who have fled are children. Considering the “disastrous” consequences, the UN has stated that a “specialised international force” must be deployed as soon as possible to address the situation.

Canada: Trudeau calls for an end to “unacceptable” antisemitic violence
On 27 November, while condemning an attack on the Jewish Community Council in Montreal, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that antisemitic violence must end immediately. The attack, which took place on 24 November, saw a Molotov cocktail being thrown at the entrance of the centre at midnight. Nobody was inside at the time and the building has not sustained any major damage. Trudeau described the “continued acts of antisemitic violence” as “deplorable and unacceptable” asserting that people must “stand united against such vile, hateful acts.” The Executive Director of the council, Rabbi Saul Emanuel, stated that “the rise in antisemitism in our city is frightening” with cases of “repeated violence and attacks” on the Jewish community.

The US: Three Palestinian men shot in Vermont
On 25 November, three 20-year-old Palestinian men were shot near a university campus in Vermont, sparking concerns over increasing Islamophobia across the US due to the ongoing war in Gaza. The police stated that they were all speaking Arabic and two were wearing a keffiyeh (a Palestinian headdress) when they were shot. Burlington police arrested 48-year-old Jason Eaton on 26 November, who has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned of more potential attacks by “homegrown violent extremists.” However, the Burlington Police Chief, Jon Murad, told people to not make assumptions “based on statements from uninvolved parties who know even less” than investigators. He acknowledged the difficulty in not attributing the incident to a “hate-motivated crime.” 

The US: North Korea justifies satellite images at UNSC
On 27 November, North Korea’s ambassador to the UN, Kim Song, told the UN Security Council (UNSC) that the launch of a spy satellite from North Korea captured images of the White House and Pentagon. Countries including Japan and South Korea stated that this violated UNSC resolutions. Song defended the “in detail” images North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un received asserting that “no other nation in the world is in the security environment as critical as the DPRK.” He commented that the possession of the images was “legitimate” especially considering the US “threatening” them with a “nuclear weapon.” In response, US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, stated that the routine was “defensive in nature” and not an act of self-defence.   

The US: Somali pirates speculated to be behind Israel-linked ship seizure
On 27 November, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder stated that the attackers behind the recently attempted seizure of an Israel-linked cargo ship were potentially Somali pirates rather than Houthi fighters, although the latter has not been ruled out yet. While they have determined that it was “clearly a piracy-related incident,” assessment is ongoing and “initial indications” point toward the attackers being Somali. This hijack was amid the Houthi rebels’ raids on commercial ships in the Red Sea that had links to Israel.



About the authors
Rohini Reenum is a PhD Scholar at NIAS. Padmashree Anandhan is a Research Associate at NIAS. Anu Maria Joseph, Femy Francis, Rishika Yadav, Dhriti Mukherjee and Shamini Velayutham are Research Assistants at NIAS. Rosemary Kurian and Nuha Aamina are undergraduate scholars from St Joseph's University, Bangalore. Rishita Verma and Gananthula Uma Maheshwari are postgraduate scholars from Pondicherry University.
 

(The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any institutions or organisations.)

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Annem Naga Bindhu Madhuri

Issues for Europe
July 2023 | CWA # 1012

Bibhu Prasad Routray

Myanmar continues to burn
December 2022 | CWA # 879

Padmashree Anandhan

The Ukraine War
November 2022 | CWA # 838

Rishma Banerjee

Tracing Europe's droughts
March 2022 | CWA # 705

NIAS Africa Team

In Focus: Libya
February 2022 |