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Conflict Weekly
Conflict Escalation in the Middle East, and One Year of Civil War in Sudan

  IPRI Team

Conflict Weekly #224, 18 April 2024, Vol.5, No.16
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI

Shamini Velayutham and Anu Maria Joseph

The Middle East: Steady Escalation 
Shamini Velayutham

In the news
On 19 April, according to Reuters, in retaliation to Iran’s drone attack, Israel has targeted a military factory which belongs to the Iranian army in Isfahan. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that there has been no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites. IAEA in its X post stated: “Chief Rafael Grossi continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts.”

On 18 April, the US vetoed a draft resolution which suggested granting Palestine a "full membership" at the UN General Assembly. 12 members voted in favour while the UK and Switzerland abstained. Robert Wood, Deputy US Ambassador to the UN, stated: "The United States continues to strongly support a two-state solution. This vote does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood."

On 18 April, during a meeting between senior US officials and their Israeli counterparts, the US expressed concerns over Israel's plan for military operation in Rafah. On 14 April, the US President, Joe Biden, stated: "I condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms." He added that the US "remains vigilant to all threats." The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, stated that the US would continue to support Israel's defence and does not seek further escalation in the region. 

On 17 April, Iran's President, Ebrahim Raisi, expressed his concern over a threat of "full-scale war" in the Middle East. He stated: "The tiniest attack by Israel would bring a massive and harsh response." On 15 April, the chief of Staff of the Israel military, Herzi Halevi, stated that his country would respond to Iran's attack despite the international warning of further escalation in the region. 

On 17 April, Qatar's Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, stated that the country is "re-evaluating" its role as a mediator in securing a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, referring that its efforts were undermined by some parties for "narrow political interest." He added there has been an uptick of accusations and criticisms against Qatar supporting Hamas and that negotiators are trying to "move forward and put an end to the suffering that the people in Gaza are experiencing and return the hostages."

On 14 April, Netanyahu, in his first public comment after Iran's attack, stated: "We intercepted. We blocked. Together we will win." He added: "We appreciate the US standing alongside Israel, as well as the support of Britain, France and many other countries. We have determined a clear principle: Whoever harms us, we will harm them. We will defend ourselves against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination."

On 13 April, Iran launched 300 drones and missiles towards Israel in response to Israel's attack on 1 April on its consulate in the Syrian capital, Damascus, killing seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and two commanders.

Issues at large
First, the long-standing fragile Israel-Iran relationship. Iran and Israel have been at loggerheads. Since 1983, Israel targeted Iran with drone strikes and assassinations of Iranian leaders. Iran's nuclear program, which Israel views as an existential threat, was has been a major target for the latter. In 2010, Israel, along with the US, developed a computer virus, Stuxnet, to attack the uranium facility at Iran's nuclear site. It was the first cyberattack launched by Israel. Iran has been using its proxies in Yemen and Lebanon, targeting Israel and its allies in the region.

Second, efforts to de-escalate. The US and other countries have urged Israel to restrain from escalating the conflict. The US, the UK, the EU, and the G7 countries have new sanctions on Iran, targeting entities and leaders connected to the IRGC, the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics, and the Iranian government's drone and missile program. 

Third, the regional response. Following the drone attack, regional actors such as Jordan and Iraq have been vigilant. To secure its air space, along with the US, the UK, and other countries, Jordan thwarted Iranian missiles, which were launched in its air space against Israel. In solidarity with Iran, its proxies, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthis in Yemen, fired dozens of rockets at the Israeli military in the Golan Heights. They launched unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) targeting Israeli ports. 

In perspective
First, a new escalation in the Middle East. Iran's attack on Israel is seen as the first confrontation without the support of its proxies. 

Second, despite the minimal damage, Israel has vowed to respond. Palestinians claim that Iran has the right to defend itself. The sanctions on Iran by Western, European, and Arab countries intend to appease Israel to limit its retaliation. The immediate neighbours' alignment with the US and Israel may result in a surge of attacks by Iranian proxies.

Sudan: One Year of Civil War
Anu Maria Joseph

In the news
On 15 April, Sudan marked one year of the civil war. The conflict between the rival military forces, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has killed nearly 16,000 people and displaced 8.4 million. 

On 15 April, France hosted an international conference to support mediation attempts, improving international cooperation and humanitarian assistance to Sudan. France's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Séjourné, stated that "the Sudanese people have been the victims of a terrible war" for a year and suffered from "being forgotten" and "indifference." Representatives from 20 countries attended the conference, including Sudan's neighbours, the US, Germany, the EU and the UN. At the meeting, Germany announced that it would provide USD 260 million in assistance. Germany's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock, stated: "We can manage together to avoid a terrible famine catastrophe, but only if we get active together now."

On 13 April, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Martin Griffiths stated: "After one year of war, there must be a light at the end of this tunnel of darkness and death. Millions of people in Sudan have already lost their homes, their livelihoods and their loved ones. We cannot let them lose hope, too."

On 12 April, the UN asserted that Sudan is facing "one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory" and "the largest internal displacement crisis in the world."

On 11 April, Sudanese military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burjan stated that the military "will not hand over the authority of our state to any internal or external party." He added: "Anyone who conspired against the Sudanese people inside and outside the country will not have any role to play in the future running of this country."

Issues at large
First, a brief background to Sudan's Civil War. Two rival military leaders - Hamdan Dagalo of the paramilitary RSF and Abdel Fattah al-Burhan of the SAF- have been the primary actors in the civil war. RSF is a derivative of the Janjaweed militia, formed by Omar al-Bahir, which carried out atrocities in Darfur in 2003. Later, in 2019, the SAF and the RSF together toppled Bashir after promising a civilian rule. In 2021, Burhan carried out another coup and ended the civilian-military shared government. The military sabotaged the civilian transition and solely took the leadership of the country. The war began after the RSF disagreed to merge with the SAF over the military's leadership. 

Second, the State of War. The conflict has expanded in terms of geography and intensity. The war, which started in the capital, Khartoum, has spread to the cities of Omdurman, Port Sudan, Bahri and recently, Wad Madani. It has spread over the states of Darfur, Nile and Kordafan. Both sides carry out frequent attacks using tanks, artillery, rockets, and air-delivered munitions in all the hotspots. The RSF controls the majority of the conflict hotspots. The SAF hold east of the country, including Port Sudan near the Red Sea. In March, SAF advanced and recaptured several pockets of Omdurman. What began as a military rivalry has turned into ethnic conflict, especially in Darfur and Kordofan states. RSF, along with several arab militias, is accused of carrying out atrocities against the Darfurians. Arab and non-Arab militias have taken sides with the RSF and the SAF, respectively. Several regional and international mediations have failed without a concrete outcome. Meanwhile, both parties are vying for international and regional legitimacy for a sovereign leadership of the country. 

Third, the human cost. According to the UN, 48 million people are facing catastrophic levels of hunger in the country. It has warned of an impending famine. Nearly 230,000 children are severely malnourished. Ethnic atrocities are mounting in Darfur, a region which has been grappling with two decades of genocidal violence. Civilians are slaughtered, rape is being used as a weapon, aid camps and homes are burned. According to the Ministry of Health, more than 11,000 suspected cases of cholera, including over 300 deaths, have been reported from 11 of Sudan's 18 states. Aid agencies claim that reach to conflict-hit regions is restricted by the army, and RSF-controlled areas risk looting.

Fourth, regional repercussions. WFP warns that across the region, 28 million people face acute food insecurity: 18 million in Sudan, seven million in South Sudan, and three million in Chad. Nearly two million people have fled to neighbouring countries, including South Sudan and Chad. Due to a lack of funds and refugee surge, three million people in South Sudan are facing acute hunger with no assistance from the WFP. Similarly, in Chad, 1.2 million refugees need humanitarian support. The exodus surge has burdened the neighbouring countries of South Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia, where ethnic rivalries and violence are a daily occurrence along the borders. Recently, ethnic violence in the Abiey region, a disputed land between Sudan and South Sudan, has increased, with the UN reporting more than 100 casualties.

Fifth, international limitations. The international community Initially made considerable efforts to bring about peace talks. At least nine rounds of ceasefire efforts were mediated by several international actors, including the US, the UN, and Saudi Arabia; all failed. Both warring parties are persistent for an absolute victory. They have shown little commitment to compliance. Currently, with the war in Gaza and Ukraine taking momentum, attention to the conflict in Sudan has decreased. Although both sides rhetorically agreed to all rounds of ceasefires, none was achieved on the ground. 

In perspective
First, the conflict stalemate. The conflict in Sudan has been prolonged for a year with failed ceasefires and peace talks. It has become complex, with the involvement of multiple actors and extended geography and character. Now, it is challenging for the mediators to bring the multifaceted conflict to a negotiating table. Although the SAF has gained a little ground around Khartoum, defeating the RSF is far from happening, and the RSF is unpopular and unequipped to defeat the SAF and take over the country's leadership. A compromise between the RSF and the SAF is unlikely. Hence, the fighting is at a stalemate, which would continue with a lower frequency during the coming months until a significant breakthrough. 

Second, Sudan and the region are on the brink of collapse. A lack of international response to the worsening humanitarian response has left the country on the verge of collapse. A famine would likely spill over the region, impacting Chad and South Sudan. Humanitarian crises would potentially trigger inter and intra-ethnic and resource violence. 

Third, empty regional responses and failed international responses. The African Union (AU) and other African countries are absent in all the mediations. Regional efforts are limited to calling for an end to hostilities. The lack of effective ceasefire monitoring mechanisms failed the international efforts. The efforts are challenged by the inability to propose a peace talk which matches the complex conflict. Unsuccessful attempts imply the need to revisit the approach to the conflict in Sudan.

This Week In History
17 April 1895: The Treaty of Shimonoseki, ends the first Sino-Japan War (1894-95)
Nupur Priya

On 17 April 1895, the Qing Dynasty of China, long considered a regional giant, signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, marking a humiliating defeat at the hands of a rapidly modernizing Japan. The treaty ended the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and was a significant turning point in East Asian power dynamics.

A brief note on the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895)
The war took place over their supremacy in Korea. The latter was China's client state, but Korea's strategic location and its coal and iron treasure charmed Japan. With a successful modernization program, Japan emerged as a major power influencing young Koreans. On the other hand, China influenced the royal family by sponsoring the officials around them. 

War broke out on 1 August 1894. The mighty Chinese Army surprisingly lost to a modernized and better-equipped Japanese army

The Treaty of Shimonoseki and the shift in Asia's power equation leading to the rise of Japan
Peace negotiations started officially on 20 March at Shimonoseki in Japan. Under the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which had 11 articles, China recognized "the full and complete independence of Korea" and ceded the island of Taiwan, the adjoining Pescadores islands, and the southern portion of the Liaodong Peninsula in Manchuria (however, the Liaodong Peninsula was returned to China by the Triple Intervention of Russia, France, and Germany). The treaty also made the Chinese pay substantial war indemnities to Japan and gave Japan trading privileges on Chinese territory.

The demise of China due to decaying military and internal strife forced it to relinquish Korea, cede territories of Taiwan and other islands and pay a steep price. On the contrary, a new Japan rose with its impressive military prowess and fueled expansionist ambitions. Japan's victory solidified its position as a rising power in Asia. The defeat of China had a domino effect in the form of internal revolutionary movements in China, which eventually toppled the Qing Dynasty.

The Treaty of Shimonoseki marked a turning point in world history with the rise of Japan.

17 April 1975: Khmer Rouge captures Phnom Penh in Cambodia, establishing the Pol Pot regime

On 17 April 1978, under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge, captured Phnom Penh in Cambodia, ending years of insurgency and guerilla warfare inserting, but establishing the Khmer Rouge to power. It resulted in a reign of terror that would haunt Cambodia for years to come.

A brief note on Cambodia and Khmer Rouge in the 1970s
Khmer Rouge was the armed wing of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. It operated mostly in remote jungles and mountain areas in the country's northeast, along its border with Vietnam, which was at the time immersed in its civil war. after the then monarch of Cambodia, Prince Norodom Sihanouk was overthrown in 1970 in a military coup by Marshal Lon Nol, a Cambodian politician who had previously served as prime minister. As the monarch became popular among Cambodians, the Khmer Rouge gained traction. For the next five years, a civil war between the right-leaning military of pro-American government, and those supporting the alliance of Prince Norodom and the Khmer Rouge raged in Cambodia.

The rise of Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge
Pol Pot spent time in France and became a member of the French Communist Party. He returned to Cambodia in 1953, and joined the communist movement, beginning his journey to power as one of the world's most despised dictators. The Khmer Rouge, aided by the North Vietnamese, began to fight Lon Nol's army on the battlefield. But by the end of 1972, the Vietnamese had left Cambodia and handed over most of the war's tasks to the CPK. In 1973 the Khmer Republic government with the US help dropped half a million tons of bombs on Cambodia, almost killing 300,000 people and pushing them to join the Khmer Rouge to fight the government. 

Eventually, the Khmer Rouge seized the advantage, after gaining control of 85 per cent of territory in the countryside. On 17 April 1975, it captured Phnom Penh. However, The Khmer Rouge chose not to restore authority to Prince Norodom, instead handing control to the Khmer Rouge's commander, Pol Pot.

Pol Pot isolated Cambodia from the rest. Inspired by the tribal way of self-sufficient living, he forcefully moved around 2 million people from cities to rural areas to undertake agricultural work. Thousands of them died during the evacuations.

They believed that Cambodia should be returned to an alleged ‘golden age’ when the land was cultivated by peasants and the country would be ruled for and by the poorest in society. They wanted all members of society to be rural agricultural workers rather than educated city dwellers, whom the Khmer Rouge considered not pure and corrupted by Western ideas. Everyone’s political and civil rights were taken away. Moreover, Factories, hospitals, schools, and universities were shut down. Beginning of January 1977, all children under the age of eight were removed from their parents and placed in labour camps, where they were trained that the state was their 'real' parents. Children were crucial to the Khmer Rouge's revolution because they felt they could be easily moulded, conditioned, and brainwashed. They may be trained to follow orders, become troops, and kill opponents. Children were taught that everyone who did not follow Khmer laws was a corrupt enemy. Those labelled intellectuals or potential leaders of a revolutionary movement were also executed. According to legend, some people were murdered simply for looking to be intellectuals, such as wearing glasses or speaking a foreign language.

An estimated 1.7 to 2.2 million Cambodians died under Pol Pot’s regime.

The end of Pol Pot
The Vietnamese government, alarmed by the Khmer Rouge's aggressive actions along the border and its persecution of ethnic Vietnamese within Cambodia, launched a full-scale military campaign to overthrow the regime. By the end of 1977, clashes between Cambodia and Vietnam broke, leading to a new Vietnam-friendly government, the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) in Phenom Pen. The Khmer Rouge leaders and their followers sought refuge in Thailand and continued fighting the Vietnam-backed PRK. Concurrent with the Vietnamese invasion, various Cambodian resistance groups, including former Khmer Rouge defectors as well as non-communist factions, joined forces with the Vietnamese to oppose the Khmer Rouge regime. This coalition, known as the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation (KUFNS), played a crucial role in the downfall of the Khmer Rouge.

The fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 marked the end of a dark chapter in Cambodian history but also heralded a new era of uncertainty and instability. 

Issues in Peace and Conflict This Week:
Regional Roundups

Akriti Sharma, Rohini Reenum, Akhil Ajith, Anu Maria Joseph, Femy Francis, Padmashree Anandhan, Dhriti Mukherjee, Shamini Velayutham, and Gopi Kesav N

East and Southeast Asia
China: Collective punishment on dissenters, reports Chinese Human Rights Defenders
On 15 April, a US-based human rights group, Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), released a report titled "If I Disobey, My Family Will Suffer: Collective punishment of human rights defenders' families in China." The report claims that Chinese authorities have been "collectively punishing" and persecuting the families of human rights defenders. The director of CHRD, Renee Xia, stated: "The most heartbreaking part is [how the Chinese authorities are] inflicting so much pain on the children of human rights defenders, and the experience of watching their parents being mistreated growing up leaves long-term psychological trauma on them." A Chinese human rights lawyer, Wang Quanzhang, who was detained in 2015, claims: "The authorities think our community has been trying to humiliate them, so they want to use all the means at their disposal to punish human rights lawyers." He said that his 11-year-old son was turned away from several schools, and when they tried to leave the country, the customs office stopped them, citing national security issues. 

China: PLA sent fighter jets to warn US Navy aircraft from patrolling in the Taiwan Strait
On 17 April, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command sent fighter jets near the Taiwan Strait to warn US Navy aircraft patrolling in the region. The US Navy stated that its P-8A Poseidon maritime reconnaissance and patrolling aircraft flew within the Taiwan Strait, which is in line with international law, asserting that the US "upholds the navigational rights and the freedom of all nations." The PLA's Eastern Theatre Command called this a public hype. It said that "troops in the theatre are always on high alert and will resolutely defend national sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability." The development came after the US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, spoke with Chinese Minister of Defence, Dong Jun, where Dong stated: "The Chinese People's Liberation Army will never let any Taiwan independence separatist activities and external connivance and support go unchecked."

China: Coast Guard blocks the Philippines research vessel 
On 13 April, the China Coast Guard (CCG) blocked two Philippine ships for hours. The incident took place 35 nautical miles from the Philippines coast. The satellite imagery by SeaLight found that the Philippines maritime research vessels and escort ships met the Chinese coastguards. The image showed that they met near the infamous nine-dash line, which China marks as part of its claim in the region. The vessel was stopped for eight hours. SeaLight director Ray Powell informed them that they intercepted them as they crossed the nine-dash line. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "[T]he Philippines has abandoned the current administration's understanding with China on the Ren'ai Jiao issue."

Japan: Underwater drone test 
On 18 April, the Straits Times reported on Japan's plan to conduct tests for autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) in June. The costs per unit are expected to be JPY one billion. The AUVs would be used in dangerous waters and deep seas with high water pressure. The AUVs, which can automatically navigate under the water, would be used for marine resource development and national security. Additionally, it would be used to inspect offshore wind power generation facilities, perform underwater surveillance, and perform vigilance activities. The country aims for domestic production of AUVs in 2023 to industrialise them by 2030.

Japan: 6.4 magnitude earthquake 
On 17 April, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) reported a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in the southern part of the country. The Bungo Channel between the Kyushu and Shikoku islands was the epicentre of the quake. Separately, an earthquake of six magnitude was recorded in Ehime and Kochi prefectures. No casualties were reported. A government spokesperson, Yoshimasa Hayashi, confirmed the safety of one of the operational Ikata nuclear reactors in Ehime prefecture. 

Australia: Plans to boost defence budget 
On 17 April, Australia announced its plan to boost defence spending by AUSD 50.3 billion over the next decade against a potential US and China conflict in the Pacific. Australian Minister of Defence Richard Marles stated that the upgraded defence budget prioritises long-rage missiles, drones and warships. According to the ministry, it would only begin after five years and aim to increase defence spending from the current two per cent to 2.4 per cent of the GDP by 2034. Forty per cent of the funding would be allocated to the navy, including surface fleets, AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines, and Ghost Shark undersea drones. AUSD 74 billion would be allocated for missile programmes. The remaining AUSD18 billion would be allocated to upgrade military bases in northern Australia. 

Myanmar: 46 BGP members cross to Bangladesh amid conflict in Rakhine state
On 17 April, 46 members of the Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) took shelter in Bangladesh, following which the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) officers confiscated their weapons and detained them. The BGP members fled amid the armed conflict in Myanmar's Rakhine state between the junta and the Arakan Army. BGB's public relations officer, Shariful Islam, stated that there are 260 BGP members in custody, including the newly detained members.

South Asia
Pakistan: Militants kill 11 people in Balochistan's Nushki district
On 12 April, according to the Deputy Commissioner of Nushki, Habibullah Musakhel, unidentified militants gunned down 11 persons in Balochistan's Nushki district. The men were labourers belonging to Mandi Bahauddin, Wazirabad, and Gujranwala. Police speculate Baloch separatist groups are behind the attack. Balochistan's Chief Minister, Mir Sarfraz Bugti, condemned the murders and asserted that the terrorists responsible for the crime would not be pardoned.

Pakistan: Interior minister says "all evidence" points towards Indian involvement in Lahore attack
On 15 April, the Minister of Interior, Mohsin Naqvi, stated that there is evidence of Indian involvement in the Lahore gun attack on 14 April targeting Amir Sarfraz Tamba, the individual who allegedly killed Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh in the Kot Lakhpat prison in 2013. Naqvi stated: "India was directly involved in two to four events like this before in assassinations inside Pakistan. The police are still investigating, but till now, their suspicion is exactly the same as yours." He added that "all evidence is pointing towards" India and that it is currently "inappropriate to say more before the investigation is completed but the pattern [of killings] is almost the same." The attack followed a report in The Guardian, which claimed that the Indian government assassinated individuals in Pakistan to eliminate "terrorists" residing outside the country. On 14 April, Punjab Inspector General Usman Anwar stated that it would be "premature or too early" to make statements on foreign involvement in the Lahore attack. An investigation is being carried out to determine the motive behind the attack and the potential of a foreign government's involvement. 

Pakistan: At least seven militants killed while attempting to the cross Afghanistan border
On 17 April, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) stated that at least seven militants were killed in North Waziristan after security forces foiled their attempt to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan. According to the ISPR, a "large quantity of weapons, ammunition and explosives" was recovered from the militants. The ISPR called on the interim government in Afghanistan to "fulfil its obligations and deny the use of Afghan soil by terrorists for perpetuating acts of terrorism against Pakistan."

Afghanistan: Continuous rains and flash floods 
On 13 April, Al Jazeera reported that heavy rains and flash floods killed 33 people and injured 27 others. Additionally, 600 livestock died, and houses and roads were damaged. The floods affected the regions, including Western Farah, Herat, southern Zabul, and Kandahar. Afghanistan has recently witnessed several extreme weather events, including an unusually dry winter and heavy snowfall in western Afghanistan in February. 

India: Zero FIRs filed over the death of two Kuki-Zo men
On 14 April, two Zero FIRs were filed by the Manipur police over the death of two Kuki-Zo men during firing near Kangpokpi district. Further, the Manipur Tribals Forum raised concerns regarding rising ethnic tensions in the Manipur state. With the attacks ahead of elections, which are scheduled between 19 and 26 April, the group stated that the safety of community members would be at risk if they participated in the vote. The killings sparked protests by the Kuki-Zo community across Churachandpur and Kangpokpi regions in Manipur and in Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Meanwhile, Kuki-Zo women and leaders of Kuki-Zomi-Hmar women's forums in Delhi informed the Chief Election Commissioner, Rajiv Kumar, about their decision to boycott the polls. 

India: 29 Maoists killed in a joint operation in Chhattisgarh
On 16 April, 29 Maoists were killed in a joint operation by the Kanker District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Border Security Force (BSF) in the Kanker district of Chhattisgarh. The security forces seized AK-47s, INSAS, SLR, Carbine 303, and a large number of other arms and ammunition. The forces were dispatched after receiving a tip-off regarding the presence of senior Divisional Committee members of the Maoists. Three soldiers were injured during the operation. According to the state police, this is the "biggest encounter ever" in Chhattisgarh. Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government took power in the state, there has been a significant increase in anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh. In 2024, security forces have eliminated 79 Maoists. According to the police, this is the highest number of killings since 2019. 

Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa
Israel: Palestinians targeted in Gaza
On 16 April, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Interior and National Security, seven law enforcement officials and two bystanders were killed in an Israeli attack in Gaza. The Israeli air strike destroyed a mosque in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. The strike left several women and children wounded. Separately, 11 people were killed in an Israeli strike in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza. 

Syria: Sweden charges former Syrian Brigadier General Hamo over his role in "war crimes"
On 15 April, Sweden trialled the former Syrian Brigadier General Mohammed Hamo for committing "war crimes" during the Syrian civil war 2012. Hamo, currently residing in Sweden, is charged with operations that "systematically included attacks carried out in violation of the principle of distinction, caution, and proportionality." The prosecutor, Karolina Wieslander, described the charges as a "serious crime," adding that Hamo has contributed "advice and action" to the Syrian army's "indiscriminate" warfare. A representative from Stockholm-based human rights group Civil Rights Defenders stated: "This trial is important because it's the first time that anyone from the Syrian government or the Syrian army is put on trial for the attacks that took place." 

Yemen: US destroys drones and missiles targeting Israel
On 15 April, the US destroyed several drones and six ballistic missiles aimed at Israel from Iran and Yemen. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) stated that its forces intercepted more than 80 "one-way" attack drones and seven Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The CENTCOM stated: "Iran's continued unprecedented, malign, and reckless behavior endangers regional stability and the safety of US and coalition forces." It added: "CENTCOM remains postured to support Israel's defense against these dangerous actions by Iran. We will continue to work with all our regional partners to increase regional security." Separately, on 14 April, a UK-based security firm, Ambrey, claimed that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intercepted a UAV launched from Yemen near Eilat. The IDF stated that it used a "seaborne missile defense system" for the first time to target a drone launched from the Red Sea. 

Jordan: Intercepts Iran's "flying objects"
On 14 April, Jordan intercepted "flying objects" which entered the Jordanian airspace during Iran's attack on Israel. No casualties were reported. The state-run media stated: "Our armed forces will confront everything that would endanger the security and safety of the homeland and its citizens and the sanctity of its airspace and territory."

Lebanon: Attacks target Israeli troops
On 16 April, the Israeli army claimed that it killed a senior commander of the Radwan Force, Hezbollah's elite unit in the Kfar Dounin area in southern Lebanon. Separately, on 15 April, according to the Israeli military, several soldiers were wounded in a blast near the Israeli border. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack and added that it set "explosive devices" targeting Israeli troops who crossed into Lebanon. The group said that it had planted explosive devices in the Tel Ismail area in southern Lebanon. An Israeli military official said that four soldiers were injured in the blast. 

Ethiopia: Fresh wave of fighting between Tigray and Amhara militias
On 16 April, BBC reported a fresh wave of fighting between Ethiopia's Tigray and Amhara regions. The fight broke out in the Raya Alamata district, a region claimed by Tigray and Amhara ethnic groups. While Amhara officials accused fighters aligned with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of triggering the clashes, Tigray regional officials blamed Amara militias for launching the offensive. The new wave of clashes has disrupted the peace deal signed between the TPLF and the federal forces in 2022. 

Tanzania: Floods kill 60
On 15 April, BBC quoted the Tanzanian government that at least 60 people died in heavy floods. The floods have destroyed thousands of farms and houses. A government spokesperson, Mobhare Matinyi, stated: "Serious flood effects are experienced in the coast region where 11 people have so far died." The floods have affected the neighbouring country Kenya, where at least 13 people were killed and 15,000 displaced. 

Niger: Russian military instructors arrive to train army
On 12 April, BBC reported that Russian troops arrived in Niger as part of the recent military agreement aiming at boosting Niger-Russia security cooperation. The country cut ties with the West and turned towards Russia after the Military coup in July 2023. One of the Russian military officials told Niger's state media: "We are here to train the Nigerien army …[and] to develop military cooperation between Russia and Niger.

Burkina Faso: Three French diplomats expelled
On 16 April, Burkina Faso expelled three French diplomats for alleged "subversive activities." The diplomats included two political advisers at the French embassy in Ouagadougou. They were asked "to leave the territory of Burkina Faso within the next 48 hours." On 18 April, France responded that the expulsion was based on "unfounded" allegations. 

Europe and the Americas
Ukraine: Reform to mobilise new soldiers
On 11 April, Ukraine's parliament passed a new reform to mobilise more soldiers. The move was considered controversial as it modified the recruitment process by making it easy for the government to recruit conscripts and prevent long-serving soldiers from being removed from the army. In the parliament, 283 of the 430 members favoured the bill, which had been delayed for several months after attempts to decrease its effectiveness.

Germany: Interior minister notes success in tackling illegal migration
On 13 April, Germany's Minister of Interior, Nancy Faeser, stated that the country is successfully tackling illegal migration. She said that "border checks have detained 708 smugglers since October and prevented 17,600 unauthorised entries," and that asylum applications are lower by one-fifth compared to 2023. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, people applying for asylum have come down by 19.2 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2023. Faeser highlighted the immigration responses, such as the speedy deportation of failed asylum seekers and temporary border control measures at the borders with Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, and Switzerland. The government is considering extending these measures to all borders until the Euro2024 football championship, which is scheduled for June. The German Parliament's decision to pay welfare seekers by payment card instead of cash is to prevent migrants from using the welfare to transfer it to their families abroad or to pay people smugglers. 

Russia: Mass evacuations ordered due to floods 
On 12 April, according to Deutsche Welle, Russian authorities in Orenburg city and Kazakhstan officials ordered mass evacuations due to the Ural River flooding. The spring flooding of the Ural River was described as the worst in decades as it crossed the previous highest record of 9.4 metres in 1942. As of 12 April, more than 12,000 houses were flooded. The Orenburg authorities received 200,000 applications for immediate assistance. According to the Kazakh Ministry of Emergency Situations, 103,000 people were evacuated across the country, and the region of Petropavlovsk faced power issues. 

Venezuela and Honduras: Diplomatic actions in response to Ecuador embassy raid
On 16 April, Venezuela and Honduras announced diplomatic actions in response to Ecuador's raid of Mexico's embassy in Quito. Honduras' Minister of Foreign Relations, Enrique Reina, stated that his country's charge d'affaires had been recalled from Ecuador to consult on the raid. He added that the President of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, wanted to send a "clear message to promote respect for international law," as the storming of an embassy "should not become a disastrous precedent in the international system and that these events should not be repeated." Reina added that Honduras would "take the necessary steps to support Mexico's actions before the UN and the International Court of Justice." Separately, Venezuela announced plans to close its embassy and consulates in Ecuador. The Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information said the decision would be reversed after "international law is expressly restored in Ecuador." Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro described the raid as an "act of barbarism."

Ecuador: Energy emergency declared amid drought and corruption allegations
On 16 April, Ecuador's President, Daniel Noboa, noted that the country faces an energy crisis, forcing the government to "declare an emergency in the country's energy sector." A drought fuelled by the El Niño weather phenomenon resulted in Colombia cutting the export of electricity to Ecuador. Colombia and Ecuador depend on hydropower plants, but the drought has drastically reduced water levels, including in reservoirs used for electricity. According to Colombia's electricity operator, XM, the country's reservoirs have a capacity of 29.8 per cent. On 15 April, Ecuador's Minister of Energy and Mines, Andrea Arrobo Peña, said that in light of the "unprecedented situations," there would be power outages and rationing. Her department listed the "length of the drought, the increase in climate temperatures, the lack of maintenance in the entire electrical system's infrastructure in previous years and the presence of historically low water-flow levels" as reasons behind the crisis. However, on 16 April, Noboa said that an investigation for "sabotage in certain areas and power plants" had been initiated and that Peña had been asked to resign. Noboa attributed the problems in the energy sector to a "lack of execution and firmness in combating entrenched corruption."

The US: Oil sanctions to be reimposed on Venezuela 
On 17 April, the US Department of Treasury issued a replacement licence, giving companies 45 days to "wind down" their business and transactions in Venezuela's oil and gas sector. The Biden administration said that it would reimpose sanctions in response to the failure of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to meet his election commitments. In October 2023, the US partially lifted sanctions after a deal was reached between Maduro and the opposition on holding democratic elections. However, Maduro failed to meet certain commitments, including allowing the opposition to run the candidate of its choice. US Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller explained: "We are concerned that Maduro and his representatives prevented the democratic opposition from registering the candidate of their choice, harassed and intimidated political opponents, and unjustly detained numerous political actors and members of civil society." In response to the decision, the head of Venezuela's government-allied legislature, Jorge Rodriguez, said that the reinstatement of sanctions was a "harmful action against Venezuela," claiming that Maduro's government had met the conditions of the deal. 

About the authors
Akriti Sharma and Rohini Reenum are PhD Scholars at NIAS. Padmashree Anandhan and Anu Maria Joseph are Research Associates at NIAS. Femy Francis, Dhriti Mukherjee, Akhil Ajith and Shamini Velayutham are Research Assistants at NIAS. Gopi Kesav N is a postgraduate student at the University of Madras. Vaneeta is a postgraduate student at the UMISARC Centre for South Asian Studies, Pondicherry University. Nupur Priya is a postgraduate student at the Department of Politics and International Studies, Pondicherry University.

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