DRC: Goma swells with displaced as M23 advance

Renewed fighting between the M23 armed group and pro-government forces in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has pushed thousands more people into Goma, the largest city in the east and a humanitarian aid hub that is now encircled by the Rwanda-backed rebels. Goma’s previous population was around 1.5 million, but an additional 700,000 people have arrived during the past two years of conflict, including more than 200,000 that have come in recent weeks as the M23 expands its control over an unprecedented amount of territory. The city is buckling under a huge strain, with overwhelmed displacement camps, food prices soaring, and fear of an M23 takeover looming large. (Photo: Arlette Bashizi/TNH)


Sahel juntas accused of mounting atrocities

Security forces in junta-led Burkina Faso and Mali are carrying out increased abuses against civilians as they expand their operations against jihadist groups. In Mali, Human Rights Watch has reported accounts of soldiers arresting and shooting dead dozens of people in January. The killings took place following door-to-door searches in the village of Ouro Fero. The report also accuses the army of carrying out drone strikes in February on a wedding celebration and on a burial in the same village, killing at least 14 people, including four children. Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, a report from AP documented the killing of dozens of civilians by security forces in the central village of Zaongo back in November. Abuses like these have increased significantly under the juntas currently governing both countries. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Greater Middle East

Gaza: flashpoint for regional war? (redux redux)

At least 42 people were reported killed in Israeli air-strikes near the Syrian city of Aleppo, allegedly targeting an arms depot belonging to militant group Hezbollah. Those killed included Hezbollah members and Syrian soldiers—as well as civilians, by some reports. Israeli air-strikes in southern Lebanon meanwhile killed 16 people, and one in Israel was killed by a barrage of rockets fired by Hezbollah from south Lebanon. Earlier, a series of air-strikes on Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zor killed 15 people, including a World Health Organization staff member as well as an Iranian military adviser. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for those strikes. But Israel’s intermittent air-strikes on Iran-backed militia forces in Syria have been escalating since the Gaza bombardment began. (Image: Pixabay)


US military kicked out of Niger

Niger’s junta revoked a security agreement with the US military shortly after a large American delegation visited the country. Junta officials said they were angered by the “condescending attitude” of the US diplomats, who wanted to convince Niger not to deepen ties with Russia and Iran, and to transition the country to civilian rule. The US has some 1,000 troops in Niger and a drone base near Agadez. It has used the base to surveil jihadist fighters but has not accompanied Nigerien forces on operations targeting militants. The junta’s decision is part of a broader pushback against Western militarization in the Sahel. French troops were told to leave Niger last year, having previously been booted out of military-ruled Burkina Faso and Mali, which are also facing jihadist insurgencies. (Map: PCL)


Taliban pledge retaliation for Pakistani air-strikes

Pakistan is accused of killing eight civilians in air-strikes on Afghanistan. Islamabad says the strikes were conducted in retaliation for a deadly suicide attack on an army base at Mir Ali, North Waziristan district, by a cell of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militant group that was operating out of Afghan territory. Afghanistan’s Taliban government has denied the charges and promised retaliation for the killing of what it says were mostly women and children in the provinces of Khost and Paktika. This marks the latest escalation between the neighbors since Pakistan enacted a policy that has led to the expulsion of more than 500,000 Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)


What fate for Rafah civilians as Israeli invasion looms?

As Israel presses toward an invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where 1.4 million displaced Palestinians are trying to find shelter, the Israeli military says it plans to direct a “significant” number of them toward zones in the center of the Gaza Strip. Referring to the areas as “humanitarian islands,” Israel’s chief military spokesman did not provide details on how or when civilians would be moved when he made the announcement. Any Israeli invasion of Rafah could trigger an even larger humanitarian catastrophe in the densely crowded area, aid groups have warned for weeks. An invasion will complicate efforts to deliver humanitarian supplies, as Gazans continue to suffer from disease and face starvation. (Photo: Yousef Hammash/NRC)

Greater Middle East

Lebanon: displacement as Israel intensifies air-strikes

As Israel expands its air-strikes deeper into Lebanon, hitting parts of the country previously considered safe, those already forced to flee the conflict are struggling to get by without jobs or much aid, unsure where to go next if things get even worse. Cross-border tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese political and militant group, have been growing since the outbreak of war in Gaza, with almost daily exchanges of fire. According to UN figures, the violence has forced more than 90,000 people to flee their homes inside Lebanon since early October. (Photo: Aftermath of Feb. 19 Israeli air-strikes in south Lebanon town of Ghaziyeh, where Israel said it targeted a Hezbollah weapons depot. Credit: Egab/TNH)


Turkish air-strikes deepen privation in northeast Syria

Months of Turkish air-strikes on Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria have left more than a million people without power and double that number with no reliable access to water. Starting in early October, an initial series of heavy Turkish drone strikes knocked out civilian infrastructure and killed dozens—apparent retaliation for a suicide bombing outside a government building in Ankara. The strikes have intensified since. Attacks in December and January struck healthcare facilities as well as roads that are key for aid access, while a series of strikes in mid-January hit even more power stations. (Photo: al-Zarba oil field in northeast Syria, after it was hit by an air-strike in mid-January. Credit: Ivan Hasseeb/TNH)


Gaza humanitarian response: ‘convenient illusion’

In a message delivered to the UN Security Council, the head of MĂ©decins Sans Frontières, Christopher Lockyear, said that the “illusion” of a humanitarian response in Gaza “perpetuates a narrative that this war is being waged in line with international laws.” The already low volume of aid being delivered to Gaza has collapsed in recent weeks, despite Israel having been ordered by the World Court to enable the provision of humanitarian aid. The World Food Program announced that it has suspended aid deliveries to northern Gaza—where the suffering is most extreme—because of the dissolution of public order. A new report from the Gaza Health Impact Projections Working Group estimates that, even in the best-case scenario of an immediate permanent ceasefire, there will be more than 6,500 excess deaths in Gaza over the next six months due to the catastrophic food, shelter, sanitation, and healthcare situation in the enclave. If the status quo of ongoing bombardment continues, the projections rise to more than 74,000 deaths. Reports are beginning to emergeof children dying of hunger. (Photo: Maan News Agency)

cabo delgado

Conflict lingers in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado

Mozambique’s military said last year that more than 90% of northern Cabo Delgado province had been secured from ISIS-affiliated insurgents known locally as al-Shabab—yet ongoing attacks indicate that the conflict is far from over. After seizing a strategic village last month, jihadists killed more than 20 soldiers in a battle this month. Cases of beheadings, kidnappings, and ambushes are still being reported by conflict monitors, even as a regional military intervention force is set to end its three-year mission. (Map via Moscow Times)


DRC: M23 advancing on Goma —again

The M23 insurgency in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is intensifying once again. Some 150,000 people have been displaced over the past days, adding to the 1.5 million already uprooted by the fighting, which began in late 2021. The latest clashes are taking place close to Goma, a city of 2 million people and a hub for humanitarian aid operations in the east. The M23 says it is not planning on seizing the city (as it last did in 2012), but its forces have fired rockets into the city. Soldiers from a recently deployed Southern African Development Community (SADC) intervention force have entered the battlefield on the side of the Congolese army, which is also supported by local militia. (Map: CIA)


Netanyahu orders ‘evacuation’ of southern Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli military to draw up plans for the “evacuation” of Palestinians from Rafah in southern Gaza as it prepares to launch a full-scale assault on the area. Where people would be evacuated to—and how—remains unclear. Over one million Palestinians forcibly displaced by Israel’s military campaign—now entering its fifth month—have been pushed into Rafah. Aid groups warn that there is nowhere left for people to flee to. People in Rafah are already experiencing disease and starvation, and aid operations are struggling to meet even basic needs. A ground invasion would “exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare,” UN Secretary-General AntĂłnio Guterres said. (Photo: Yousef Hammash/NRC)