Conflict Weekly

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Conflict Weekly
Growing International Pressure on Israel, Protests in Armenia and Elections in South Africa

  IPRI Team

Conflict Weekly #230, 30 May 2024, Vol.5, No.22
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI

Shamini Velayutham, Ayan Datta and Anu Maria Joseph

The War in Gaza: Despite growing international pressure, Israel continues its operations in Rafah
Shamini Velayutham

In the news
On 26 May, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, Israeli air strikes killed 45 people in a camp in Rafah, which Israel had declared a "safe zone." According to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), two senior Hamas officials were killed during the air strike.

On 27 May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the fatal attack which struck the IDP camp in Rafah as a "tragic accident." Netanyahu in Knesset stated: "In Rafah, we evacuated a million uninvolved residents and, despite our best efforts, a tragic accident happened." He added: "We are investigating the case and will draw the conclusions."

On 28 May, Hamas said that it had launched eight rockets at Tel Aviv for the first time in several months. On the same day, Israel killed 13 during an airstrike on the "safe area" of al-Mawasi. 

On 28 May, Spain, Ireland and Norway recognized Palestine. Ireland Prime Minister Simon Harris said it was a "historic and important move." Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide asserted that it is a special day for "Norway-Palestine relations." Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stated: "Palestine was not only a matter of historic justice, it is also an essential requirement if we are all to achieve peace." On the same day, the White House stated that President Joe Biden is not changing "American policy" toward Israel, implying that the incident had not passed a "red line." 

On 24 May, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah. South Africa brought the case against Israel for its crimes against humanity. The ICJ President Nawaf Salam stated: "The court considers that, in conformity with its obligations under the Genocide Convention, Israel must immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza condition of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part." The Israeli officials refuted the claims and described ICJ ruling as "false, outrageous and disgusting."  

Issues at large
First, a brief note on Rafah. Located in the southwest of Gaza and bordered by Egypt, Rafah is home to 1.4 million displaced people. Before 7 October 2023, the population was estimated to be 275,000. Half of Gaza's pre-war population (2.3 million) has been pushed to Rafah. Approximately 300,000 of them left Rafah following Israel's evacuation orders. On 6 May, the Israeli military began its military operation in Rafah. 

Second, the growing international opposition to Israel in terms of institutions and states. On 25 March, the UNSC passed a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an unconditional release of all hostages. For three previous resolutions, the US backed Israel's right to defend itself, claiming that a ceasefire at that time would benefit Hamas. Subsequently, the International Criminal Court of Justice (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan on 20 May requested arrest warrants against Netanyahu, other Israeli officials and three Hamas officials for war crimes. Three countries from Europe - Ireland, Spain and Norway have now recognized the Palestinian state.

Third, the relentless attack by Israel. According to the UN, about 800,000 people have been forced to flee Rafah after Israel launched a military operation on 6 May. On 18 May, Israeli forces targeted the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, killing 15 Palestinians. The IDF targeted the Al Nuseirat refugee camp on 14 May, killing eight people. Previously, on 22 January, Israeli forces killed 65 people in an air strike in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. 

In perspective
There is a growing international opposition against Israeli actions in Gaza. However, Israel is determined to neutralize Hamas in Gaza. The international institutions, including UNSC, ICJ, and ICC are continuously pressuring Israel to end the war. Along with the international institutions, the EU member countries' recognition of Palestinian statehood further puts Israel in a position to halt the cessations. 

While Israel's handling of the conflict faces increasing opposition on a global scale, Netanyahu's administration is determined to eliminate Hamas from the region.

Armenia: Protests against PM Pashniyan on ceding villages to Azerbaijan
Ayan Datta

In the news
On 26 May, Voice of America (VOA) reported anti-government protests in Armenia against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's decision on territorial concessions to Azerbaijan. Bagrat Galstanyan, a church leader from the Tavush region, led the protests. VOA quoted Galstanyan as telling the crowd that Yerevan should demarcate the border after holding a referendum and signing a peace treaty with Azerbaijan. He also demanded Pashinyan's impeachment. 

On 24 May, Armenia returned four border villages it captured from Azerbaijan during the 1990s. On 25 May, Reuters reported that Azerbaijan took control of the four villages on the border with Armenia under an agreement with Pashinyan's government. 

On 24 May, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan argued that the decision "is a sole guarantee for the very existence of the Armenian republic within its internationally recognized and legitimate frontier." He said the "new demarcation" enhances Armenia's "security and stability."

Issues at large
First, a brief background to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. It has been raging since the late 1980s. In 2020, Azerbaijan launched an offensive on Armenia-occupied territories and captured all the Armenia-occupied territories outside Nagorno-Karabakh. In 2022, Azerbaijan again clashed with Armenian forces and occupied parts of Armenia's territory. In September 2023, Azerbaijan launched another offensive, occupying the whole of Nagorno Karabakh. The local government in Nagorno-Karabakh, earlier known as the Artsakh Republic (backed by Armenia), was dissolved by the end of 2023. Following the above, around 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

Second, Armenia's latest decision to hand over the four villages. The ceded villages are in the Tavush region and have been uninhabited for over 30 years. However, the ceded region contains a highway connecting Yerevan with the Armenia-Georgia border and a gas pipeline. Yerevan's decision comes as part of an ongoing peace process with Baku.

Third, the public outcry inside Armenia against the government's decision. Galstanyan, a church leader in the region, leads the protests. He has been mobilizing Armenians to protest and block public spaces in Yerevan.   The protestors argue that Pashinyan has betrayed the nation by unilaterally giving up the territory. The residents of the Tavush region, outside the four villages that were ceded, fear being cut off from the rest of Armenia. 

In perspective
First, the regional political situation is unfavourable to Armenia. Since the 1990s, the Azeri leadership has used its oil wealth to strengthen its military. Consequently, Azerbaijan enjoys considerable military advantages over Armenia. Moscow's failure to defend Yerevan's interests has strengthened that advantage. Turkey, Azerbaijan's close partner, is rising as a regional power. Israel supplies advanced weaponry to Azerbaijan. After the outbreak of the Ukraine war, Europe has become dependent on Azerbaijan for oil and natural gas. On the contrary, Russia, Armenia's supposed security guarantor, is bogged down in Ukraine. Iran, another traditional partner to Armenia, is bogged down with Israel and internal instability. Besides, when Azerbaijan attacked Armenia in 2023, US diplomats engaged in shuttle diplomacy between Baku and Yerevan to bring a peaceful resolution. However, the US and Russia treat the protests as a matter of Armenia's internal affairs. For these reasons, the region's balance of power is deeply unfavourable for Armenia.

Second, Pashinyan stands to benefit by conceding the disputed pockets. He has adopted a strategy of demarcation, withdrawal, and territorial consolidation. Pashinyan is pursuing peace at the expense of victory. However, these concessions, coupled with the favourable balance of power, may embolden Azerbaijan to pursue further territorial gains against Armenia.

Third, the Armenian public's perception of the situation contradicts Armenia's power position. Armenia has controlled Nagorno-Karabakh since 1992. Armenia's people fought two wars against Azerbaijan for these territories. The imperative to preserve territorial integrity is deep-seated in Armenians' minds. Pashinyan's concessions may be a necessary act of pragmatism. However, protestors argue that he has betrayed the nation. For them, Nagorno-Karabakh and the conceded pockets are inviolable Armenian territory. If Galstanyan comes to power, then he and the Galstanyan-led “Tavush for the Homeland” movement may push Yerevan's foreign policy towards uncompromising and revanchist directions.

South Africa Elections 2024: Early results imply a coalition
Anu Maria Joseph
In the news
On 29 May, South Africa held its national and provincial elections. It was the seventh election since the end of the apartheid regime in 1994. This year, South Africa also marks 30 years since the first inclusive democratic elections that ended the Apartheid regime.

The polls were reported to be relatively peaceful. On 31 May, the results of 50 per cent of the polls were declared, with the African National Congress (ANC) leading with 42 per cent, followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) with 23 per cent. Meanwhile, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EEF) secured ten per cent and the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK Party) with 11 per cent. Officially, the results will be declared on 2 June.
Issues at large
First, a background to South Africa's elections. In 1994, all South Africans voted for the first time, marking the end of the apartheid. Since 1994, it had six elections, all won by the ANC. There were 27 million registered voters this year, while in the previous elections (held in 2019), it was 26 million. The African National Congress (ANC) led by current President Cyril Ramaphosa, followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) under John Steenhuisen, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma's uMkhonto we Sizwe party are the major parties running this year. 

Second, the declining popularity of the ANC. Popular support for the ANC took a swift downturn from 70 per cent in 2004 to 57 per cent in 2019. It was the first time the party secured votes below 60 per cent. Most opinion polls say that this year, the party might not receive a 50 per cent vote to form a single majority government. According to an opinion poll by market research firm Ipsos, the ANC's support is currently at 40.2 per cent. The continuing debate on racial inequalities, increasing unemployment, poverty, crime rates, power outages, and corruption are major issues that have caused the declining popularity of the ANC. The majority of ANC's popular leaders are known for corruption. Current President Cyril Ramphosa was accused of corruption in 2022 after USD 580,000 of cash was found in a sofa on his game farm, with the money later stolen by robbers. Additionally, several popular leaders, including former President Jacob Zuma, left the party to form one of their own, which has divided the ANC's votes. 

Third, the debate on continuing apartheid. Despite the ANC's credentials for ending the apartheid, the party's 30-year rule failed to eradicate racial inequality. It is institutionalized now through a new form of economic apartheid. The poor and vulnerable, who are dominantly black and were promised land and house reformation during the 90s by ANC, are pushed to the peripheries of Cape Town. According to OCHR, the country faces unequal access to education and pay, segregated communities, and economic disparities, which the institutions and the society reinforce. In 2022, the World Bank ranked South Africa as the most unequal country in the world, wherein the majority of the inequalities are on racial lines.

Fourth, socio-economic issues. In South Africa, ten per cent of the affluent population holds 85 per cent of the country's wealth. According to the World Inequality Lab data, although the top black population has outnumbered the white population among the ten per cent, the wealth of the poor has not increased. Besides, the unemployment rate in the country has reached 37 per cent. According to Statista, South Africa has the highest crime index of 75.4, with 3,934 women and 1,122 children murdered between April 2022 and March 2023. The country also struggles with a prolonged electricity crisis, dragging the economy. The domestic consumers face a 12-hour outages every day. 
In perspective
The peaceful nature of the elections implies success. However, the state of democracy is in question. The inequality, crime, and corruption rates, added to failed checks and balances, point to an inefficient democracy. This year's elections are also a bigger test for the ANC. Although existing socio-economic issues have slightly declined in popularity, the ANC has retained its charm. 

The majority of the population thinks highly of the party which led the apartheid movement. However, the declining popularity would also mean that the young and the future generations are immune to the party's Apartheid card. As it is likely that the ANC will lose a single majority, the party should get ready for a coalition. A coalition with any major opposition parties would be a hard choice for the ANC, considering those parties' antagonism towards the party. Forming a coalition with multiple minor parties will take a lot of work. Besides, South Africa's constitution does not provide provisions for forming a coalition. The new government would be in a larger crisis in forming and running a coalition.

This Week In History
20 May 2002: East Timor becomes an independent country
Mugdha Chaturvedi

On 20 May 2002, East Timor emerged as an independent country after its struggle against the Indonesian occupation. Earlier, it was under the Portuguese rule until 1975.

1500-1975: From Portugal to Independence 
The Portuguese entered Timor as traders and were followed by the Dutch in the early 1500s. A conflict between the Dutch and the Portuguese led to the division of Timor into two - East Timor and West Timor, and rule by the Dutch and the Portuguese, respectively. The Portuguese introduced economic development measures; Sandalwood forests of East Timor became the focus of economic activities. 

During World War II, Japan aimed to establish its rule in East Timor but faced high opposition from the locals. In 1974, following a change in government in Portugal, Lisbon initiated a process of decolonization and left East Timor in 1975. After a brief Civil War, the left-wing Fretilin in East Timor declared independence.   

1976: East Timor becomes a part of Indonesia
In 1976, Indonesia intervened militarily, taking control of East Timor and making it the 27th province. The UN refused to recognize Indonesia's above action and called for a rollback of Indonesian forces from East Timor.

In 1982, following a UN request, a dialogue started between Indonesia and Portugal, which led to Indonesia claiming limited autonomy over East Timor in 1998. On 5 May 1999, Portugal and Indonesia signed an agreement at New York on transferring East Timor's authority to the United Nations. 

1999: The Road to Referendum
Following the 1999 agreement, the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) was created under UNSC Resolution 1246. Meanwhile, inside East Timor, the pro-Indonesian groups started to target the civilians. On the other side, Fantili, the armed wing of the Fretilin party, attacked the Indonesian forces using guerilla warfare.

In September 1999, the UN created the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) to ensure peace and order in East Timor and help the UNAMET carry out its on-ground missions. 

From Referendum to an independent East Timor and first President
On 25 October 1999, the UN Security Council resolution 1272 established the United Nations Transnational Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) to administer East Timor. The UNTAET was made responsible for maintaining law and order in East Timor and creating indigenous political, civil, and social services. 

On 30 August 2001, in another vote, 91 per cent turned out to elect members to draft a new Constitution for East Timor. The Constitution came into force on 22 March 2001; the first Presidential elections were held on 14 April 2001, resulting in Xanana Gusmão becoming the first President of independent East Timor. On 20 May 2001, the first government was sworn in East Timor.

East Timor after independence
Timor Leste, as it is now known, joined the UN in 2002 and received observer status in ASEAN in 2017.

Internally, East Timor faces challenges. Approximately 50 per cent of the children are stunted by malnutrition, and there is a lack of basic education and sanitation facilities. Many infrastructure projects have been completed using poor-quality materials. Political disputes continue on issues related to power-sharing and cabinet appointments.

Issues in Peace and Conflict This Week:
Regional Roundups

Rohini Reenum, Akhil Ajith, Femy Francis, Padmashree Anandhan, Dhriti Mukherjee, Shamini Velayutham, Vetriselvi Baskaran, Ayan Datta, Ken B Varghese, and Neha Teresa

China, East, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific
China: Envoy to the UN affirms One-China principle after WHO rejects Taiwan's participation
On 28 May, CGTN reported quoted a Chinese envoy to the UN on the World Health Organization's (WHO's) decision not to invite Taiwan to the annual assembly in Geneva. The envoy said that the refusal to admit Taiwan proves that the ambition for "Taiwan's independence" is unlikely and that any strategy to undermine the One-China policy is set to face doom. The World Health Assembly decided that they would not include Taiwan's participation. This will be the eighth year that the Taiwan-related proposal has been rejected. China's UN office representative, Chen Xu, said that China's position on Taiwan has been clear and consistent and that the issue must be handled by following the One-China principle and the UN resolution 2758. Chen added that China has arranged to represent Taiwan under the One-China principle in global affairs.

China: Drills for oil in Nepal as Kathmandu looks to curb its dependence on Delhi
On 28 May, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on China drilling for oil in Nepal. A Nepali newspaper, Kantipur, reported that 20 Chinese engineers and 45 Nepali technicians would work together for the next six months to drill for oil in Dailekh. The initiative is part of the Sino-Nepal deal signed in 2007. This will be the first oil and gas drilling in the Himalayan country since 1985, as Nepal seeks to reduce its dependence on India. A research fellow at the Global Research Institute at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, Narayani Sritharan, said: "Nepal's dependence on India for oil has long been a strategic vulnerability, often subject to political and logistical challenges." The move comes in light of the dispute between India and Nepal in 2015, where Kathmandu accused Delhi of blocking energy supply in light of their new constitution. This led to Nepal turning to China, which gave it 1.4 million litres of fuel.

China: Reports human rights violations committed by the US in 2023
On 29 May, China's State Council Information Office released a report on the human rights violations in the US in 2023. As per the report, the state has failed to guarantee the civil and political rights of the people. There have been mass shootings at a high rate. Police abuse and violence in law enforcement are also recorded. The report highlighted the systemic racial discrimination in American society against African–Americans and immigrants. Additionally, it stated that they were subjected to mass arrest. It highlights the increased gap between the rich and the low-income groups and their struggle to pay for necessities. It additionally points out the violation of the rights of women and children. It asserts that 54,000 women have lost their jobs during pregnancy every year, and drug abuse has spread among teenagers. The report found that the US has practised the politics of hegemony, sparked armed conflict in various regions, and destabilized societies, violating the human rights of other countries.

Taiwan: Passes controversial bill expanding legislative power
On 28 May, Taiwan's Legislative Yuan passed a controversial bill ignoring the protests staged by the public. The new legislation gives lawmakers the power to demand that the President give regular reports to the Parliament and answer their questions. The bill was proposed by the opposition KMT and TPP, which hold the majority in Taiwan's legislative body. The legislation states that if not followed, government officials will find the accused in contempt of Parliament. Critics have argued that this resolution is vague and pro-China. They argue that it lacks the checks and balance mechanisms required to prevent the abuse of power. The bill also gives the legislature control of the budget and defence spending. This enables them to demand the military, private companies, and individuals to disclose information relevant to parliamentarians. The bill has been facing wide opposition from the people and the opposition parties in Taiwan.

Hong Kong: Detains six in sedition charges under Article 23
On 29 May, the Hong Kong government announced its first arrests under the new sedition laws. Six people were detained for publishing social media posts which incited hatred against Beijing.  Five women and one man, including activist Chow Hang Tung, were arrested. BBC quoted the officials that the group posted messages targeting a "sensitive date," implying the Tiananmen Square anniversary on 4 June. Under the law, the guilty could face punishments of up to seven years in prison. The pro-China government introduced the law in March 2024, covering treason, sedition, and revealing state secrets. The law is an expansion of China's national security law in 2020. 

North Korea: Informs Japan of plans to launch a reconnaissance satellite
On 27 May, Business Standard reported that North Korea informed Japanese coast guards of the plan to launch a satellite rocket by 3 June. Meanwhile, the South Korean military informed that they detected some military activities in North Korea, reckoned to be preparing for a spy satellite launch. In November 2023, North Korea launched a reconnaissance satellite, after which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced the plan to launch three more in 2024. The recent developments are in light of the trilateral meeting between South Korea, Japan, and China. 

Papua New Guinea: 670 people dead in massive landslide
On 26 May, The Guardian reported that over 670 people died due to the massive landslide in Papua New Guinea on 24 May. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) stated that the toll was based on the calculations by local and provincial officials and that over 150 homes have been buried due to the catastrophe. It is estimated that more than 250 homes in the Yambali village in the Enga region were abandoned, and 1250 people have been displaced. 

North Korea: Russian experts reach Pyongyang to assist satellite launch, reports Yonhap
On 26 May, Yonhap News Agency, a South Korean media house, reported that a group of Russian experts had arrived in North Korea to aid the launching of their reconnaissance satellite. Several Russian technicians entered North Korea after Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his support for advancing the North Korean satellite program in September 2023 during the summit at a spaceport in Russia's Far East. 

South Asia
Pakistan: 23 terrorists and five soldiers killed in KP, reveals ISPR
On 28 May, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) revealed that 23 terrorists and five soldiers were killed in three separate operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). On 27 May, in an operation carried out in the Tank district, ten terrorists were killed. Another operation was carried out in the general area of Bagh, Khyber district, wherein five soldiers and seven terrorists were killed. On 26 May, security forces conducted an intelligence-based operation in the Hassan Khel area of Peshawar, where six terrorists were neutralized and several hideouts were discovered. 

Pakistan: 26 arrested and registered case against 400 following mob violence and attempts to lynch Christian man 
On 27 May, Dawn reported that 26 people were arrested, and cases were registered against 44 nominated and 300 or 400 unidentified suspects following mob violence and an attempt to lynch a Christian man. The cases were registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 and several sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The police registered a blasphemy case against the Christian man, who was critically injured by the mob violence. The violence broke out after several pages of the Quran were found burnt adjacent to his residence. Following the violence, Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Anwar, and Home Secretary, Noorul Amin Mengal, visited the area. Sargodha District Police tightened the security of the churches in the district and deployed more than 1000 security personnel. Additionally, Section 144 was imposed for seven days in Sargodha city.

Pakistan: Four Pakistani nationals killed and two injured in cross-border firing by Iranian forces 
On 28 May, four Pakistani nationals were killed and two others injured during a firing by Iranian forces along the Judar-Bacharai border in the Washuk district of Balochistan. A senior official from the Mashkel administration confirmed: "Iranian forces opened fire inside the Pakistani border." An official posted at the border revealed that the killed and injured Pakistanis were involved in the supply of Iranian smuggled oil. However, one of the wounded stated that they were waiting for the oil consignment when they were fired at. He revealed that four Iranians were killed and taken away by the Iranian forces.

Pakistan: AMTU strike disrupts traffic along the coastal belt of Balochistan 
On 25 May, The Express Tribune reported that a strike led by the All Makran Transport Union (AMTU), which entered its third day on 24 May, had impacted travel along the coastal belt of Balochistan. Passenger buses and trucks were stopped at Gwadar, leading to traffic disruptions across the three districts of Makran division – Panjgur, Kech and Gwadar. Local travellers, patients travelling to Karachi, and pilgrims at the Iran-Pakistan border were affected. The transporters were protesting against alleged "unnecessary" checking by security forces on the two highways, the Coastal Highway and the RCD Highway. In response to these claims, Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti directed the provincial home minister to investigate the allegations.

India-Bangladesh: Cyclone Remal causes havoc
On 26 May, Cyclone Remal made landfall in Bangladesh and India causing major displacement and damage. At least 38 people were killed and eight lakh people were displaced in both countries. In India, the northeastern states of Mizoram, Assam, and Meghalaya were the worst affected. The Sunderbans were also one of the most affected areas. Remal is the longest storm in Bangladesh after Cyclone Aila hit in 2009. The cyclones are increasing in frequency, intensity, and duration over the past few years which is attributed to climate change, according to the experts. Disaster management teams were involved in managing the impacts of the cyclone.

Bangladesh: Two Rohingya were shot dead
On 30 May, two Rohingya men, a student and a teacher were killed by gunmen at Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. Their parents claim that they were killed for refusing to return to Myanmar. According to the camp residents, Rohingya militants working with the Myanmar junta are recruiting the refugees for the Myanmar Army to fight against the Arakan Army. Police spokesperson, Arefin Jewel, said that they are investigating whether it is an incident of forced recruitment. As per the UN refugee agency report, at least 1,870 refugees were recruited into the armed forces between March and May. Over 25 per cent of them were children and 75 per cent of them were forcibly taken.

Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa
Lebanon: Israeli strike kills two
On 28 May, AP News reported that an Israeli strike targeted a motorcycle driver and hospital in southern Lebanon. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) did not comment on the strike; however, it claimed that it had launched attacks in response to "terrorist launches." Director of the Salah Ghandour Hospital, Jbeil Mohammed Suleiman, asserted that nine civilians were wounded in the strike, the majority of whom were "civilians who were in front of the hospital, where family members and people accompanying the patients usually gather."

Yemen: Houthis target ships and US destroyers
On 27 May, Yemen's Houthi rebels asserted that they had launched attacks on three ships, Larego Desert, MSC Mechela and Minerva Lisa, in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and two US destroyers in the Red Sea. The shipping companies and the US military have not responded. The Houthis military spokesperson, Yahya Saree, did not specify the attack; however, they asserted that the group had used missiles against the ships and drones against the US destroyers.

Syria: French court sentences top Syrian officials to life in prison
On 25 May, the Paris court sentenced three high-ranking Syrian officials in absentia to life in prison for "complicity in war crimes" under Syrian President Bashar Assad's administration. The trial was based on the officials' role in the 2013 arrest of torture and killing of a Franco-Syrian individual, Mazen Dbbagh, and his son. The arrest warrants were issued in 2018 without avail.

Sudan: SAF intensifies airstrikes in North Darfur and Khartoum
On 28 May, the Sudan Tribune reported that the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) carried out airstrikes on North Darfur and to the north of Khartoum. The SAF additionally struck the RSF positions in Khartoum, Bahri, Kober, Halfiya, Shambat farms and the DAL company headquarters. The SAF aims to prevent RSF reinforcements from reaching El-Fasher. Separately, on 26 May, BBC reported that over 130 people died at the South Hospital in Sudan's besieged city of El Fasher. The city is currently under the control of Sudan's army, which has been fighting the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The intense fighting has caused 979 casualties. According to the UN, the hospital is running low on supplies. A UN expert warned that civilians in El Fasher were being targeted based on ethnicity and that the Darfur region was facing the risk of genocide.

Sudan: Blinken and Burhan discuss ceasefire and humanitarian access 
On 28 May, the Sudan Tribune reported that US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken urged Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to end the ongoing conflict, de-escalate and facilitate humanitarian access. Matthew Miller asserted that the two leaders additionally discussed resuming peace negotiations. 

South Sudan: Kiir directs advisor to enter peace negotiations with Sudan amidst oil crisis
On 28 May, the Sudan Tribune reported that South Sudan President Salva Kiir directed his national security advisor, Tut Gatluak, to engage in peace negotiations with Sudan. Kiir wants to use the peace to get an oil pipeline repaired. South Sudan's Undersecretary of the Ministry of Petroleum, William Anyak Deng, told reporters: "The escalating conflict has severely hindered our progress in fixing the pipeline." South Sudan's economy is dependent on oil revenue. The pipeline rupture occurred in an area controlled by Sudan's Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The conflict has hindered the repair of the pipeline. 

Sudan: UNSC criticized for not focussing on "UAE's aggression"
On 24 May, the Sudan Tribune reported that the country's Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Al-Harith Idriss, criticized a closed-door UN Security Council meeting for not focussing on the UAE's aggression against Sudan. Idris stated before the press: "We sought a dedicated meeting to address the acts of aggression perpetrated by the UAE against the Republic of Sudan." He argued that the meeting "trivializes the focus and urgency" of Sudan's concerns. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) has been alleging the UAE of assisting the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the civil war.

Somalia: Town flooded after river overflows
On 26 May, Africanews reported that seasonal rains and the El Nino effect caused the Shebelle River to overflow, flooding Beledweyne Town. A video by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) showed partly submerged homes and people fleeing their homes. 

South Africa: Universities face pressure to cut ties with Israel
On 27 May, Al Jazeera reported that students at the Wits University and the University of Cape Town set up pro-Palestine encampments on their campuses. The protesters demand to disclose the universities' relationship with Israel-aligned companies and universities, express solidarity with Palestine, support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement, and end censorship on pro-Palestinian activists. The University of Fort Hare committed to not pursuing relationships with Israeli institutions. The Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Buti Manamela, told Al Jazeera: "We really want to see our universities and institutional organizations doing what most institutions did to apartheid: boycott it." The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, argued that universities should advance "critical citizenship."

Nigeria: 160 villagers kidnapped by the bandits
On 26 May, BBC reported that ten people were killed and at least 160 villagers were kidnapped from a village in Nigeria's state of Niger. The men rode on motorcycles and looted the village. A resident told BBC that the assailants are suspected to belong to Boko Haram. Amnesty International expressed concerns about the incident. The group highlighted that the mass abduction indicates the Nigerian state's failure to protect its people. It called on Nigerian authorities to end similar incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice. 

Burkina Faso: Military rule extended by five years 
On 26 May, the BBC reported that Burkina Faso's military government, led by Captain Ibrahim Traoré, extended the military rule for another five years. The decision was announced after a national consultation meeting in the country's capital, Ouagadougou. Additionally, he would be able to contest for the next presidential election. Captain Traoré has pledged to restore civilian government by 1 July this year. A new 60-month-long transition period would take effect from 2 July, followed by elections. 

Europe and the Americas
France: State of emergency lifted in New Caledonia
On 27 May, France lifted the emergency on New Caledonia, announced following protests due to France's decision to alter electoral reform in New Caledonia, a French external territory since 1853. Many Kanaks, the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia, opposed French rule and wanted complete independence. They strongly opposed electoral reform as it would diminish their electoral influence. The proposed bill caused massive protests on the island, forcing France to declare an emergency on 15 May. This gave more power to the police to tackle violence and undertake measures including house detention, conducting searches without warrants, seizing weapons and restricting movements. The French government dispatched hundreds of police personnel and the military to restore order in the archipelago. The decision to lift the state of emergency comes following the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to promote political dialogues between the pro-independent parties.

Ukraine: Russian troops claim to have captured two more villages in Kharkiv and Donetsk
On 27 May, the TASS, Russian state-owned media, reported on Russian troops claiming to have captured another two villages in the eastern Kharkiv area and Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). This includes Ivanovka in Kharkiv and Netailovo in the DPR. The Russian Ministry of Defence stated: "Battlegroup North units continue advancing deep into the enemy defences. They inflicted casualties on manpower and equipment of the Ukrainian army…" Additionally, Russian troops claimed to have inflicted damage on Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv. On the same day, the Russian troops claimed that there was an improvement in frontline positions in the Donetsk area. 

On 26 May, France 24 reported on the attack in Kharkiv, where two guided bombs hit the centre of a hypermarket in a residential area of Kharkiv city. Approximately 120 people were inside the hardware store, and 16 were killed. A separate missile strike targeted a residential building, including a post office, a beauty salon, and a cafe. Following the attack, Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, issued air raid alerts in Kharkiv for over 12 hours, and 400 police officers and 200 emergency personnel were deployed. Additionally, European Council President Charles Michel condemned the attack as a heinous crime. However, Moscow denied targeting civilians. 

Ukraine: Several Western countries offer military assistance to Ukraine
On 28 May, during a visit to Belgium, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a security agreement with the Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo. The agreement includes the delivery of 30 US-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. It also provides Ukraine with EUR 977 million in Belgian military aid. Belgium pledged to support Ukraine with modern armoured vehicles, air force equipment, naval security, mine clearance, and military training. The Belgian government aims to deliver the first aircraft by the end of 2024 and the rest by 2028. On 28 May, the Netherlands Ministry of Defence announced an initiative to deliver the Patriot air defence system to Ukraine. The government invited the European countries to contribute from their existing stock and acknowledged Ukraine's need for military capability, energy production, and essential infrastructure. The Netherlands' Minister of Defence, Kajsa Ollongren, said they were counting on the industrial suppliers who pledged to speed up production and deliver replacement systems. 

On 25 May, the German government confirmed the transfer of another IRIS-T air defence system to Ukraine. According to German Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius, IRIS-T would improve Ukraine's air defence in addition to the recently delivered Patriot system. Nine IRIS-T SLMs and 11 IRIS-T SLSs had been promised to Ukraine by Germany. Besides, Canada claimed to have financed the purchase of anti-aircraft missiles for the IRIS-T air defence systems and allocated about EUR 52 million. On 24 May, the US Department of Defence signed a new security assistance package to meet Ukraine's critical security and defence. This includes a security assistance package of USD 275 million of "High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), artillery rounds, air-launched munitions, and anti-tank weapons, Javelin and AT-4 anti-armour systems, small arms and demolition munitions."

Poland: Government to reinforce surveillance and fortification along its border with Russia and Belarus
On 27 May, Deutsche Welle reported on the Polish government's announcement to reinforce its "anti-drone surveillance and construct fortifications," which extends to 700 kilometres of its border with Russia and Belarus. The reinforcement programme, known as Shield-East, is expected to be completed by 2028 and will include planned fortification, hubs, and telecommunication systems in line with NATO's eastern allies. It is estimated to cost EUR 2.35 billion. Poland's Minister of Defence, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamys, stated: "The goal of the shield is to protect the territory of Poland, hamper the mobility of the adversary's troops while making such mobility easier for our own troops and to protect civilians." This would be a unique programme apart from the wall constructed along Poland's border, which was built to prevent migrant influx.

Mexico: Presidential candidates hold final rallies ahead of elections
On 30 May, BBC reported on the leading candidates in Mexico's presidential election holding their final campaigns ahead of the vote on 2 June. The campaign has been characterized by violence, with a mayoral candidate being shot dead while closing his rally in the state of Guerrero. Nationally, the race is between Claudia Sheinbaum, an ally of left-wing incumbent Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, and Xóchitl Gálvez, a former senator of Mexico's main centre-right party who has criticised Obrador. Sheinbaum is popular and likely to become the country's first female leader. During her campaign, she stated: "I'm clear that my obligation is to take Mexico along the path of peace, security, democracy, freedom and justice." Meanwhile, Gálvez emphasized: "You are going to have the bravest President. I am going to defend your family. I am going to protect your sons. I am going to take care of your daughters. Don't forget that." This campaign has been the most violent in Mexico's history, as around 200 public servants, politicians, and candidates have been assassinated until now.

Brazil: President withdraws ambassador to Israel over Gaza war
On 29 May, Brazil's official gazette announced that Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has withdrawn the Brazilian ambassador to Israel, following months of bilateral tensions over the war in Gaza. Lula has been an explicit critic of Israel and has in the past compared Israel's actions in Gaza to a Holocaust. Along with Colombia, Brazil supported South Africa's complaint in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel.

Haiti: Transitional council names new prime minister
On 28 May, Haiti's nine-member transitional council announced Garry Conille as the country's next prime minister amid continuing gang violence in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Previously, Conille served as the prime minister for four months, from October 2011 to February 2012. The council voted six-to-one in favour of Conille. He has been serving as a Latin American regional director of UNICEF since 2023. However, the move implies a political divide within the council, which had chosen former sports minister Fritz Belizaire as the prime minister in May. This decision was reversed due to accusations that proper protocols had not been followed. The latest announcement was met with scepticism, with the Haitian civil society group Montana Accord questioning the council's commitment to transparency. They noted that the "suffering of the people is getting worse, while the gangs are taking control of more territory and committing more crimes," and called for "consequential measures" to restore order.

The US: Secretary of State stresses the need for Israel to have a post-war plan
On 29 May, during a news conference in Moldova, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Israel that it was "imperative" for it to have a post-war strategy to ensure the defeat of Hamas and restore security and governance in Gaza. He said that in the "absence of a plan for the day after, there won't be a day after." Appreciating Israel's "real success" in its effort to eliminate Hamas' military capacity, he said that Israel should not be directly responsible for Gaza's future. He added that if this happens, Israel will "simply have an enduring insurgency on its hands for" the foreseeable future. Further, without a post-war plan, "Hamas will be left in charge, which is unacceptable." Alternatively, there will be "chaos, lawlessness and a vacuum that eventually will be filled again by Hamas or maybe something — if it's possible to imagine — even worse."

The US: President Biden focuses on fallen soldiers and democracy in Memorial Day speech
On 27 May, during his Memorial Day remarks, US President Joe Biden paid tribute to service members who gave their lives for a "more perfect union," and spoke of the grief of the families. He noted: "Today we join that grief with gratitude to our fallen heroes, their families, and the brave souls who uphold the flame of liberty." Praising the soldiers who were "bound by a common commitment" to the "idea of the USA," he pointed out that "freedom has never been guaranteed" and each generation has "to earn it, fight for it, defend it in the battle between autocracy and democracy." Biden described democracy as being "more than a system of government," and the "soul of America."

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, Shamini Velayutham, Akhil Ajith and Vetriselvi Baskaran are Research Assistants at NIAS. Neha Tresa George, and Ken B Varghese are undergraduate students at Madras Christian College. Ayan Datta is a Postgraduate Student at the University of Hyderabad. 

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