arms traffic

Burma: urban warfare erupts in Mandalay

Gunfire erupted in the streets of Mandalay, Burma's second largest city, as regime troops raided a building where a cell of the incipient armed resistance movement was sheltering early on June 22. The raid, at Chanmyatharzi township, sparked hours of running street battles. PDF fighters erected barricades of flaming tires to slow the advance of troops. Both the military, known as the Tatmadaw, and the rebel People's Defense Force (PDF) claimed casualties on the opposing side and denied deaths among their own forces. "We've declared war," the Mandalay PDF said in a statement. "The day we've been waiting for is finally here." The PDF has previously targeted Tatmadaw and police patrols in Mandalay. On June 1, a soldier was killed and another injured when the PDF fighters opened fire on military trucks in the city. On June 8, two police officers were shot dead.​ (Myanmar Now, TRT World, NYT)

Syria: regime bombs first responder headquarters

Assad regime forces on June 20 shelled a White Helmets civil defense center in northwest Syria, killing a rescuer and wounding three others. The destroyed center was in the town of Qastoun in the al-Ghab Plain of western Hama province. Local sources said that Russian-made Krasnopol guided missiles were used, indicating the deliberate targeting of the rescuers. Regime forces have escalated shelling of southern Idlib and western Hama provinces this month, as civilians return to their homes from displaced persons camps near the Turkish border. At least nine people have been killed, a school destroyed, and crops burned. (EA Worldview, AP)

Libya: UK slaps sanctions on Haftar-aligned militia

The UK government on May 20 imposed sanctions on Libya's al-Kaniyat militia and its leaders for violations of international law. The militia is reportedly responsible for 27 mass graves containing the remains of hundreds of residents reported missing in the Libyan town of Tarhuna, on the southern outskirts of Tripoli. The group, aligned with the forces of eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, is additionally held responsible for atrocities such as torture, murder, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearance between 2014 and 2020. The UK has imposed the sanctions under the Sanctions & Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018.

Gaza bombardment displaces 58,000 Palestinians

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) announced May 18 that the Israeli bombardment has resulted in over 58,000 Palestinians being displaced from their homes in the Gaza Strip. Of these, 47,000 are currently seeking shelter in facilities run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. The bombardment has also led to the destruction of health infrastructure such as COVID-19 testing labs and clinics. The destruction exacerbates privation imposed by the ongoing blockade of the Strip.

Armenia-Azerbaijan border stand-off —over water

Armenia's Security Council held an emergency meeting May 12 in response to a reported border incursion by Azerbaijan. Local authorities in southern Syunik province issued urgent reports that Azerbaijan's forces had crossed the border and completely surrounded Lake Sev. The glacial lake, which provides water for irrigation in the area, is bisected by the frontier between the two countries, with its northern third lying within Azerbaijan. But the territory on the Azerbaijan side had been held by Armenia between the 1991-4 war and last November's ceasefire, under which it was ceded back. The two sides remain at odds on the precise demarcation of the line, which had not been formalized in Soviet times.

Ten years after: the Syrian Revolution betrayed

Ten years ago this week, the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful pro-democracy protests. The first demonstrations broke out in the city of Deraa after local schoolchildren painted a mural depicting scenes and slogans from the recent revolutions in other Arab countries, and were detained and brutalized by the police. The Bashar Assad regime responded to the demonstrations with serial massacres. After months of this, the Free Syrian Army emerged, initially as a self-defense militia to protect protesters. But the situation soon escalated to an armed insurgency. The regime lost control of large areas of the country, and local civil resistance committees backed by the FSA seized control. Assad then escalated to levels of violence rarely seen on Earth since World War II.

Libya: Blackwater CEO trafficked arms to Russia-backed warlord

Erik Prince, former CEO of the notorious private military company Blackwater, violated the UN arms embargo on Libya with a clandestine pipeline to a rebel warlord, according to a confidential report to the Security Council obtained by the New York Times. The report found that in 2019 Prince deployed a force of foreign mercenaries and weapons to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been fighting to depose the UN-recognized Libyan government. The $80 million operation, dubbed "Project Opus," included a shipment of aircraft from South Africa. It also included plans to form a hit squad to hunt down and kill Libyan commanders opposed to Haftar. The accusation exposes Prince to possible UN sanctions, including a travel ban. Prince did not cooperate with the UN investigation, and his lawyer declined to comment to the Times. (Al Jazeera, Daily Sabah)

Biden pledges end to US support for Yemen war —almost

President Joe Biden announced Feb. 4 the United States will end support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country. "This war has to end," Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president, saying the conflict has created a "humanitarian and strategic catastrophe." Biden pledged an end to "relevant" US arms sales, while giving no immediate details on what that would mean. The administration had already said it is pausing some of the billions of dollars in arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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