No end to death and suffering as Sudan conflict enters its second year

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Updated 16 April 2024
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No end to death and suffering as Sudan conflict enters its second year

  • What began as a feud between two generals has spawned one of the world’s largest humanitarian disasters
  • Over 60 percent of Sudan’s agricultural land lies unusable in addition to the human and economic toll

CAIRO, Egypt: Compared with other ongoing conflicts, Sudan’s crisis, now entering its second year, is a forgotten calamity, overshadowed by the more geopolitically significant wars in the Middle East and Ukraine.

The power struggle between the Sudanese Armed Forces under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by Mohammed Dagalo has more than just thrown Sudan into chaos.

What began as a fight between two competing military factions during Ramadan last year has spawned one of the world’s largest humanitarian disasters.

Once brothers in battle who jointly toppled the country’s democratic transition, they ended up disagreeing over the integration of the RSF into the country’s military.




A man walks past a burnt out bank branch in southern Khartoum. (AFP/File)

Once fighting erupted in the capital Khartoum on April 15 last year, the battleground expanded all the way to Darfur and other vulnerable states. Attacks, airstrikes, artillery, and gunfire reverberated across several other territories, shattering Sudan’s already-tense peace.

Sudan was reeling from overlapping crises when the conflict erupted. A year later, nearly 9 million out of Sudan’s 45 million population have been internally displaced, with a further 1.7 million seeking refuge abroad, according to the International Organization for Migration.

More than half of the country is in dire need of humanitarian assistance as food shortages caused by the war threaten to unleash a famine.

Many of these figures may be underestimations due to a communication blackout across Sudan.

“From conflict fatigue to inherent biases, the Sudan conflict struggles to break through the noise of other global crises,” Dalia Abdelmoniem, Sudanese analyst, told Arab News, pointing out that media personnel are barred from entry, making the reliance on social media a double-edged sword that hinders comprehensive coverage and awareness.

She said the effort to draw more international attention to Sudan’s crisis is hindered by its complexities, which results in the country’s potential for democratic renewal as well as its humanitarian needs getting a short shrift.

Sudan’s dwindling economic importance in global terms is also a factor. UN estimates suggest a decline of more than one-third in economic activity during the initial weeks of the conflict, resulting in $9 billion in damage and another $40 billion in looted property and goods.




Sudanese Armed Forces under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, left, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by Mohammed Dagalo are engaged in a power struggle. (AFP/File)

Gibril Ibrahim, Sudan’s finance minister, has said there was a 40 percent contraction in Sudan’s economy in 2023, with an additional 28 percent decline projected for 2024. State revenues plunged by 80 percent while international trade saw a 23 percent decline in 2023.

In addition to the economic toll, over 60 percent of Sudan’s agricultural land lies unusable.

Abdelmoniem also sheds light on the challenges faced by aid agencies operating in Sudan. From issues with travel permits and visas to the lack of security for aid convoys, “the road to providing assistance is fraught with obstacles.”

There have been, however, important developments on the battlefields recently. In mid-February, Sudan’s war entered a new phase following a significant breakthrough by the army in central Omdurman, the nation’s largest city. This comes at the end of a 10-month siege on a military district known as the Corps of Engineers, signifying the SAF’s first major offensive success in the ongoing war.




Supporters and members of the Sudanese armed popular resistance in Gedaref, Sudan. (AFP/File)

“The ability of the SAF to end the siege and establish contiguous supply lines … is certainly a major offensive success for the SAF and a morale and strategic setback for the RSF,” Ahmed Khair, a Sudanese analyst with Sudan Research and Consultancy Group, told Arab News.

“Khartoum is at the center of this conflict and is where the forces of the RSF are largely concentrated; the ability of the SAF to make gains in Omdurman will most certainly weaken the RSF militarily and politically.”

Both the SAF and the RSF have been accused of war crimes by international bodies. This internal strife has led to consequences not only in the geopolitical arena but also in the social fabric of Sudan. Experts and activists say that Sudan’s silent crisis demands the world’s attention, urging a reevaluation of the priorities that dictate global headlines.

So far, the international community has only failed Sudan, providing just a fraction of the humanitarian help needed. This may force Sudanese individuals to migrate further north, choosing the perilous Mediterranean path, as analysts warn. And this is not the first time the Sudanese are fleeing.

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In 2003, Hafiz Youssef Adam, a Sudanese from the persecuted Fur tribe, decided to migrate to Greece through Syria and Turkiye, having experienced torture and harassment at the hands of Sudanese government forces.

Though he now resides in Athens, Adam told Arab News that “authorities in Greece create administrative hurdles” for people like him, and that “there are no integration measures for Sudanese refugees in Europe.”

When he visited Sudan a few days before the recent war broke out, he saw widespread looting and ongoing militarization on the streets, a sign of the events that were about to turn Sudan into a bloody battleground.

“I pray for my family and the whole country to see the military rule come to an end because they determine this racist system that prevails and benefits them,” he said.

While he has been able to find employment as a blacksmith, asylum-seekers often struggle to get their documents authenticated and learn the language.




A man inspects damage of an artillery shell in the Azhari district in the south of Khartoum on June 6, 2023. (AFP)

“Many (others) drift into informal employment, particularly in the agriculture sector of the economy,” Pal Nesse, a special adviser at the Norwegian Refugee Council, told Arab News. “Large numbers struggle to make a decent living and make ends meet.”

In contrast, Ukrainian refugees have mostly enjoyed a warmer welcome in European countries, leading to debate about whether or not the EU’s migration policies are tinged by racism.

Other experts claim that Europe’s resources are not strained at all, as reiterated by politicians, and the continent should do more to address migration. “Europe is a wealthy continent,” Jean-Baptiste Metz, head of operations at the Norwegian humanitarian aid organization Drop in the Ocean, told Arab News.

“There is definitely a way to improve the EU state members’ capacities and responsibilities.”

Studies have shown that the integration of refugees could benefit both the host country and refugees themselves. In 2013, Denmark successfully adopted a policy to train and employ refugees in occupations suffering from labor shortages.

In the future, Sudanese refugees could return to their homeland with much-needed new skills and contacts during the difficult reconstruction period.




Members of the Saudi Navy Forces assist evacuees arriving at King Faisal navy base in Jeddah on April 26, 2023. (AFP)

Nesse advised that “more alternative legal pathways for refugees and asylum-seekers should be established. There should also be alternative pathways for migrants not necessarily seeking protection but primarily employment.”

However, time has only seen European politics turn against refugees, who are often blamed for various issues from economic crisis to unemployment to crime.

Nesse hopes that the West will address both immediate and long-term needs by supporting Sudan’s ceasefire and peace processes.

“Additionally, there is a crucial requirement for humanitarian assistance, development funding, and favorable trade and tariff regulations.”


Israeli tanks at edge of Rafah’s Mawasi refuge zone, residents say

Updated 58 min 16 sec ago
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Israeli tanks at edge of Rafah’s Mawasi refuge zone, residents say

  • Residents say Israeli tanks had pushed deeper into western and northern Rafah in recent days, blowing up dozens of houses
  • Israeli military says it is continuing ‘intelligence-based, targeted operations’ in the Rafah area

CAIRO: Israeli tanks advanced to the edge of the Mawasi displaced persons’ camp in the northwest of the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Sunday in fierce fighting with Hamas-led fighters, residents said.
Images of two Israeli tanks stationed on a hilltop overlooking the coastal area went viral on social media, but Reuters could not independently verify them.
“The fighting with the resistance has been intense. The occupation forces are overlooking the Mawasi area now, which forced families there to head for Khan Younis,” said one resident, who asked not to be named, on a chat app.
More than eight months into Israel’s war in the Hamas-administered Palestinian enclave, its advance is focused on the two areas its forces have yet to seize: Rafah on Gaza’s southern tip and the area surrounding Deir Al-Balah in the center.
Residents said Israeli tanks had pushed deeper into western and northern Rafah in recent days, blowing up dozens of houses.
The Israeli military said it was continuing “intelligence-based, targeted operations” in the Rafah area and had located weapons stores and tunnel shafts, and killed Palestinian gunmen.
The armed wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movement said their fighters had attacked Israeli forces in Rafah with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs and pre-planted explosive devices.
Elsewhere, an Israeli airstrike killed eight Palestinians in Sabra, a suburb of Gaza City in the north, and another strike killed two people in Nuseirat in central Gaza.
The military said it had struck dozens of targets throughout the Strip.
On Saturday, Palestinian health officials said at least 40 Palestinians had been killed in separate Israeli strikes in some northern Gaza districts, where the Israeli army said it had attacked Hamas’s military infrastructure. Hamas said the targets were the civilian population.
In Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, health officials at Kamal Adwan Hospital said a baby had died of malnutrition, taking the number of children dead of malnutrition or dehydration since Oct. 7 to at least 30, a number that health officials say reflects under-recording.
Israel’s ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
The offensive has left Gaza in ruins, killed more than 37,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left nearly the entire population homeless and destitute.


Israel’s Netanyahu says US arms delay row to be ‘resolved in near future’

Updated 23 June 2024
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Israel’s Netanyahu says US arms delay row to be ‘resolved in near future’

  • Top Israeli officials lobbied their US counterparts at ‘the highest levels... at all levels’ for speedier weapons deliveries’

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday a row with the United States over weapons delays relating to the Gaza war would be resolved soon, amid simmering tensions between the allies.
“About four months ago, there was a dramatic drop in the supply of armaments arriving from the US to Israel. We got all sorts of explanations, but... the basic situation didn’t change,” he told a cabinet meeting.
“In light of what I have heard in the last day, I hope and believe that this issue will be resolved in the near future,” he added.
He said top Israeli officials lobbied their US counterparts at “the highest levels... at all levels” for speedier weapons deliveries.
“After months of no change in this situation, I decided to give it a public expression,” he said.
Netanyahu irked Washington with a video statement earlier this week accusing it of “withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”
US officials have said they were not aware of what Netanyahu was referring to.
Netanyahu’s latest comments came as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant flew to Washington for talks about the Gaza war.
On Thursday, the prime minister said Israel needed American ammunition to fight a “war for its existence” as it battles Hamas militants in Gaza and trades fire with Lebanese Hezbollah on its northern border.
Washington is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, where Israel has been fighting Hamas militants for more than eight months.


Israeli forces strap wounded Palestinian to jeep during raid

Updated 23 June 2024
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Israeli forces strap wounded Palestinian to jeep during raid

  • Social media video verified by Reuters showed Palestinian resident of Jenin on jeep that passed through two ambulances
  • Israeli military said Israeli forces were fired at and exchanged fire, wounding a suspect and apprehending him

JERUSALEM: Israeli army forces strapped a wounded Palestinian man to the hood of a military jeep during an arrest raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on Saturday. A video circulating on social media and verified by Reuters showed a Palestinian resident of Jenin, Mujahed Azmi, on the jeep that passes through two ambulances.
The Israeli military in a statement said Israeli forces were fired at and exchanged fire, wounding a suspect and apprehending him.
Soldiers then violated military protocol, the statement said. “The suspect was taken by the forces while tied on top of a vehicle,” it said.
The military said the “conduct of the forces in the video of the incident does not conform to the values” of the Israeli military and that the incident will be investigated and dealt with.
The individual was transferred to medics for treatment, the military said.
Reuters was able to match the location from corroborating and verified footage shared on social media that shows a vehicle transporting an individual tied on top of a vehicle in Jenin. The date was confirmed by an eyewitness interviewed by Reuters.
According to the family of Azmi, there was an arrest raid, and he was injured during the raid, and when the family asked for an ambulance, the army took Mujahed, strapped him on the hood and drove off.
Violence in the West Bank, already on the rise before the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, has escalated since then with frequent army raids on militant groups, rampages by Jewish settlers in Palestinian villages, and deadly Palestinian street attacks.


Hezbollah targets Israeli barracks after Islamist commander’s death

Updated 23 June 2024
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Hezbollah targets Israeli barracks after Islamist commander’s death

  • Israel and Hezbollah have exchanged near-daily cross-border fire since the Gaza war erupted
  • On Saturday, the Jamaa Islamiya group announced the death of one of its commanders, Ayman Ghotmeh

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group said Sunday it had targeted a military position in northern Israel with an armed drone in response to the killing of an Islamist commander.
Israel and the powerful Iran-backed group, a Hamas ally, have exchanged near-daily cross-border fire since the Gaza war erupted on October 7.
Hezbollah’s announcement came hours after it published a video excerpt purporting to show locations in Israel along with their coordinates, amid heightening fears of an all-out conflict between the two foes.
On Saturday, the Jamaa Islamiya group announced the death of one of its commanders, Ayman Ghotmeh, saying he was killed “in a treacherous Zionist raid” in Khiara in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa area.
Israel later confirmed it had carried out the strike, saying Ghotmeh was responsible for supplying the Fajr Forces, Jamaa Islamiya’s armed wing, and Hamas with weapons in the area.
Hezbollah on Sunday said its fighters launched a strike “with an attack drone” on a military leadership position in the Beit Hillel barracks “in response to the assassination carried out by the Israeli enemy in the town of Khiara.”
The Israeli military meanwhile said in a statement that a drone had “crossed from Lebanon and fell in the area of Beit Hillel,” adding that “no injuries were reported.”
Cross-border tensions have surged over the past days, with Israel’s military announcing on Tuesday that a plan for an offensive in Lebanon had been “approved and validated.”
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah responded with threats that no part of Israel would be spared in the event of an all-out war.
The Lebanese armed group on Saturday evening published a video showing Israeli positions and coordinates, along with an excerpt of Nasrallah’s speech in which he says “if war is imposed on Lebanon, the resistance will fight without restrictions or rules.”
Days earlier, it had circulated a nine-minute video showing aerial footage purportedly taken by the movement over northern Israel, including what it said were sensitive military, defense and energy facilities and infrastructure in the city and port of Haifa.
The cross-border violence has killed at least 480 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also 93 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.


Merchant ship damaged by drone attack in Red Sea: UK agency

Updated 23 June 2024
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Merchant ship damaged by drone attack in Red Sea: UK agency

  • Vessels in and around the Red Sea have come under repeated attack for months by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen

DUBAI: A merchant ship was damaged by a drone attack in the Red Sea near Yemen early Sunday morning, though no injuries were reported, according to a British maritime security agency.
Vessels in and around the Red Sea have come under repeated attack for months by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen who say they are acting in support of Palestinians during the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
The attack occurred about 65 nautical miles (120 kilometers) west of the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy.

 


“The Master of a merchant vessel reports being hit by uncrewed aerial system (UAS), resulting in damage to the vessel. All crew members are reported safe, and the vessel is proceeding to its next port of call,” said a bulletin from the agency.
“Authorities are investigating,” it added, offering no attribution for the attack.
On Saturday, the US Central Command, which has carried out retaliatory strikes against the Houthis over their attacks on shipping, said it had destroyed three nautical drones belonging to the group over the past 24 hours.
It also said the group had launched three anti-ship missiles into the Gulf of Aden, but no injuries or significant damage were reported.