Temporary Victory against Terrorism: Has the War against ISIS Failed?

ISIS holds a parade in Raqqa in June 2014. (Reuters)
ISIS holds a parade in Raqqa in June 2014. (Reuters)
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Temporary Victory against Terrorism: Has the War against ISIS Failed?

ISIS holds a parade in Raqqa in June 2014. (Reuters)
ISIS holds a parade in Raqqa in June 2014. (Reuters)

On October 10, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi renewed Iraq’s determination to eliminate the ISIS terrorist group from the country. This statement came at a time when each of the United States and the Iraqi political authority are set on permanently destroying ISIS before the end of the year.

To that end, Abadi said that the joint forces managed to reach regions that no military force was able to reach since the fall of the former regime in 2003. This, to him, serves as one of the clearest indications that the terror group of Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi was coming to an end. US Secretary of Defense James Mattis echoed this belief when he said during his last visit to Iraq on August 22 that ISIS’ days have become numbered.

Research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Katherine Zimmerman said during a recent study however that the US is emerging as the loser in its war against terrorism. The history of the confrontation against al-Qaeda and ISIS is rife with strategic errors and wrong perceptions of the real enemy. This has been exploited by the terror groups, which have become more powerful than ever.

Even though some 16 years have passed since the US launched its direct confrontation against terrorist organizations, the course of the conflict and the strategy of each side have played a decisive role in the renewal of the confrontation since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Despite their temporary defeats, Zimmerman explained that there are several factors that help terrorists persevere and spawn new groups. This can be attributed to three factors:

The first factor is linked to the historic experience of the radical organizations that have managed to blend “jihad” and terror (western media has helped perpetuate this misconception). The roots of these groups can be traced back to the Afghan war that honed these types of global networks that exploit local conflicts. The conflicts are exploited to form a foundation and spread a religious ideology that is based on restoring a form of “caliphate.” It also focuses on the confrontation with the West, which is viewed as an infidel and a colonial power.

These organizations have garnered practical expertise. They have developed strategic thinking that have, on many occasions, enabled them to regroup without losing their ideological and organizational base in Afghanistan. This therefore made it easy for these groups to emerge in Algeria in the early 1990s and continue there to this day. They also later emerged in Bosnia, Tajikistan, Somalia, Egypt, Chechnya, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and other countries.

The second factor revolves around the common goals and similar ideology of these groups. This factor allows terrorist organizations to achieve shared general aims without organizational coordination. Perhaps this is what pushed Zimmerman to highlight the network-like structure of these terror groups. She said that radical Islam “threatens the US, west and Islamic societies. They are not one specific group or organized members, but they derive their strength from their ideology, which helps them unite their network of individuals or groups in order to achieve the global and common goal of destroying current Muslim societies to impose their Islamist thought on them.”

Zimmerman believes that destroying terror groups, such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, will not lead to the imminent end of this phenomenon because they do not derive their strength from their leaders, such as Osama bin Laden or Baghdadi. The central strength of these groups is their radical Islamist base, which has a wide reach that enables it to keep producing new terror groups. This movement derives its strength from its violent ideology that motivates different organizations to achieve a common goal without having to coordinate their actions between them.

The third factor these groups enjoy is their great ability to exploit local conditions, such as instability and political and sectarian conflicts. This experience has allowed them to spread rapidly and garner new members.

Zimmerman gave the example of Libya and how terrorists were able to abuse local conflicts to link up with international terror organizations. The Libyan branch of ISIS emerged strongly during the country’s civil war before gaining enough ground to become part of the organization’s global terror network.

Given the above, we can say that the US’ reliance on military confrontation and targeting of terror leaders are not the keys to success in the difficult and bitter confrontation with terrorism. Zimmerman said that the US is in a crisis because it unable to pave a path to quit this war and it is unable to defeat the radical extremists by confronting their ideology.

The extremists are powerful today because of the current circumstances in Muslim countries. This is prompting Sunni societies to accept help from whoever is offering it in order to survive. This in turn gives radical forces an upper hand in their ties with the locals.

It is true that military force against terrorist groups is necessary and it does have an effect on them. This effect is however temporary. Zimmerman demonstrated this by noting that narrow victories against the groups are often short-lived because the terrorists are constantly evolving and improving their methods, which in turn leads to their longevity.

Contrary to what is being promoted, Zimmerman believes that the US is losing the war against terror. She explained that the US and Europe are confronting an unprecedented level of terror attacks launched by ISIS and al-Qaeda. This proves the extent of the failure against an enemy that can quickly adjust to local and international conditions through various networks and a great geographic reach. US President Donald Trump is therefore required to alter his traditional strategy that was adopted by his predecessor Barack Obama and George W. Bush before him.

*Khalid Yamout is a visiting political science professor at Mohammed V University in Morocco.



Beach Offers Rare Respite for Gazans

Palestinians enjoy the beach in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 17, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by AFP)
Palestinians enjoy the beach in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 17, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by AFP)
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Beach Offers Rare Respite for Gazans

Palestinians enjoy the beach in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 17, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by AFP)
Palestinians enjoy the beach in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 17, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by AFP)

Hundreds of Gazans found rare respite at the beach this week from more than six months of traumatizing Israeli bombardments in the Palestinian territory.

After temperatures suddenly soared, children paddled in the sea and their friends played ball games on the sand around Deir el-Balah in the center of the coastal strip -- but the war was never far away, Agence France Presse reported Thursday.

Deir al-Balah city became a focus of fighting in Gaza between Israeli forces and Hamas militants. Israeli bombardments have left children dead and wounded.

"The children were happy and this was our first goal -- to get them out of the destruction, killing, and the atmosphere of war, even though they hear explosions every moment and planes in the air," said Naji Abu Waseem, displaced from Gaza City in the territory's north.

"God willing, this war will end and we will return to Gaza City, even to the rubble."

Many at the beach are living in makeshift shelters nearby. They are among the 1.7 million people the United Nations says have been uprooted by Gaza's war and left struggling for food, water and other essentials.

"The tent was like an oven," said Mahmud al-Khatib, 28, also displaced from Gaza's north. "The sea was the only option," where he took his wife and children.

"There's no infrastructure, no life, everything is nonexistent," Khatib said on Wednesday with the arrival of summer-like temperatures.

Groups of men lay in the sand looking at the waves as children played in the water. Women and girls in tunics and hijabs took photographs.

Yunis Abu Ramadan, displaced with his family from the Gaza City area, said that, "with shooting everywhere," it is impossible to forget the war.

"We live in fear and terror and wish to return to our homes in Gaza," he said.

Still, his wife, Umm Ramadan, said the beach was a welcome break from their cramped life in an overcrowded tent.

"We're packed like sardines," she said. "We do not know comfort or calm due to the (Israeli) air strikes and the fear and anxiety of the children."

Worry persisted even at the water's edge, Ramadan added.

"We saw all the people in the tents had reached the sea like us because the weather was very hot," she said.

"But we were afraid that we would be bombed while we were by the sea too, as (Israeli) boats were close to the shore," Ramadan added.

"We hope the war will end and we will return to our homes."


Gaza's IVF Embryos Destroyed by Israeli Strike

Palestinian woman Seba Jaafarawi, whose IVF embryos were stored at Al Basma IVF Center, gestures during an interview with Reuters via Zoom, in Cairo, Egypt, March 28, 2024, in this still image taken from a video. REUTERS/Reuters TV
Palestinian woman Seba Jaafarawi, whose IVF embryos were stored at Al Basma IVF Center, gestures during an interview with Reuters via Zoom, in Cairo, Egypt, March 28, 2024, in this still image taken from a video. REUTERS/Reuters TV
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Gaza's IVF Embryos Destroyed by Israeli Strike

Palestinian woman Seba Jaafarawi, whose IVF embryos were stored at Al Basma IVF Center, gestures during an interview with Reuters via Zoom, in Cairo, Egypt, March 28, 2024, in this still image taken from a video. REUTERS/Reuters TV
Palestinian woman Seba Jaafarawi, whose IVF embryos were stored at Al Basma IVF Center, gestures during an interview with Reuters via Zoom, in Cairo, Egypt, March 28, 2024, in this still image taken from a video. REUTERS/Reuters TV

When an Israeli shell struck Gaza's largest fertility clinic in December, the explosion blasted the lids off five liquid nitrogen tanks stored in a corner of the embryology unit.
As the ultra-cold liquid evaporated, the temperature inside the tanks rose, destroying more than 4,000 embryos plus 1,000 more specimens of sperm and unfertilized eggs stored at Gaza City's Al Basma IVF center.
The impact of that single explosion was far-reaching -- an example of the unseen toll Israel's six-and-a-half-month-old assault has had on the 2.3 million people of Gaza, Reuters reported.
The embryos in those tanks were the last hope for hundreds of Palestinian couples facing infertility.
"We know deeply what these 5,000 lives, or potential lives, meant for the parents, either for the future or for the past," said Bahaeldeen Ghalayini, 73, the Cambridge-trained obstetrician and gynecologist who established the clinic in 1997.
At least half of the couples — those who can no longer produce sperm or eggs to make viable embryos — will not have another chance to get pregnant, he said.
"My heart is divided into a million pieces," he said.
Three years of fertility treatment was a psychological roller coaster for Seba Jaafarawi. The retrieval of eggs from her ovaries was painful, the hormone injections had strong side-effects and the sadness when two attempted pregnancies failed seemed unbearable.
Jaafarawi, 32, and her husband could not get pregnant naturally and turned to in vitro fertilization (IVF), which is widely available in Gaza.
Large families are common in the enclave, where nearly half the population is under 18 and the fertility rate is high at 3.38 births per woman, according to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics. Britain's fertility rate is 1.63 births per woman.
Despite Gaza's poverty, couples facing infertility pursue IVF, some selling TVs and jewelry to pay the fees, Al Ghalayini said.

At least nine clinics in Gaza performed IVF, where eggs are collected from a woman's ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. The fertilized eggs, called embryos, are often frozen until the optimal time for transfer to a woman's uterus. Most frozen embryos in Gaza were stored at the Al Basma center.
In September, Jaafarawi became pregnant, her first successful IVF attempt.
"I did not even have time to celebrate the news," she said.
Two days before her first scheduled ultrasound scan, Hamas launched the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and launched an all-out assault that has since killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.
Jaafarawi worried: "How would I complete my pregnancy? What would happen to me and what would happen to the ones inside my womb?"
Her ultrasound never happened and Ghalayini closed his clinic, where an additional five of Jaafarawi's embryos were stored.
As the Israeli attacks intensified, Mohammed Ajjour, Al Basma's chief embryologist, started to worry about liquid nitrogen levels in the five specimen tanks. Top ups were needed every month or so to keep the temperature below -180C in each tank, which operate independent of electricity.
After the war began, Ajjour managed to procure one delivery of liquid nitrogen, but Israel cut electricity and fuel to Gaza, and most suppliers closed.
At the end of October, Israeli tanks rolled into Gaza and soldiers closed in on the streets around the IVF center. It became too dangerous for Ajjour to check the tanks.
Jaafarawi knew she should rest to keep her fragile pregnancy safe, but hazards were everywhere: she climbed six flights of stairs to her apartment because the elevator stopped working; a bomb leveled the building next door and blasted out windows in her flat; food and water became scarce.
Instead of resting, she worried.
"I got very scared and there were signs that I would lose (the pregnancy)," she said.
Jaafarawi bled a little bit after she and her husband left home and moved south to Khan Younis. The bleeding subsided, but her fear did not.

They crossed into Egypt on Nov. 12 and in Cairo, her first ultrasound showed she was pregnant with twins and they were alive.
But after a few days, she experienced painful cramps, bleeding and a sudden shift in her belly. She made it to hospital, but the miscarriage had already begun.
"The sounds of me screaming and crying at the hospital are still (echoing) in my ears," she said.
The pain of loss has not stopped.
"Whatever you imagine or I tell you about how hard the IVF journey is, only those who have gone through it know what it's really like," she said.
Jaafarawi wanted to return to the war zone, retrieve her frozen embryos and attempt IVF again.
But it was soon too late.
Ghalayini said a single Israeli shell struck the corner of the center, blowing up the ground floor embryology lab. He does not know if the attack specifically targeted the lab or not.
"All these lives were killed or taken away: 5,000 lives in one shell," he said.
In April, the embryology lab was still strewn with broken masonry, blown-up lab supplies and, amid the rubble, the liquid nitrogen tanks, according to a Reuters-commissioned journalist who visited the site.
The lids were open and, still visible at the bottom of one of the tanks, a basket was filled with tiny color-coded straws containing the ruined microscopic embryos.


Sudan’s Year-Old War: The Build-up and the Turmoil 

A boy holds bullet cartridges as clashes between Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the army continue, in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 13, 2023.  (Reuters)
A boy holds bullet cartridges as clashes between Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the army continue, in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 13, 2023. (Reuters)
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Sudan’s Year-Old War: The Build-up and the Turmoil 

A boy holds bullet cartridges as clashes between Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the army continue, in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 13, 2023.  (Reuters)
A boy holds bullet cartridges as clashes between Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the army continue, in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 13, 2023. (Reuters)

Sudan is now a year into a war between rival military factions that has killed thousands, forced millions to flee and created a humanitarian catastrophe.

Below is a timeline of the events that led up to the conflict and the turmoil that followed:

THE BUILD-UP

Dec. 19, 2018 - Hundreds protest in the northern city of Atbara against soaring bread prices. Demonstrations spurred by a broader economic crisis soon spread to Khartoum and other cities. Security services respond with tear gas and gunfire.

April 6, 2019 - Hundreds of thousands begin a sit-in outside army headquarters in Khartoum. Five days later the army overthrows and detains President Omar al-Bashir, ending his three-decade rule.

Aug. 17, 2019 - After a deadly raid on the sit-in at army headquarters in June causes outrage, the military and civilian groups sign a deal to share power during a transitional period leading to elections. Abdalla Hamdok, an economist and former UN official, is later appointed to head a government.

Oct. 25, 2021 - Security forces detain Hamdok and other top civilians in pre-dawn raids, following recriminations between civilian and military factions and a failed coup attempt. Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan says the civilian government has been dissolved.

Nov. 21, 2021 - After several rallies against the coup and the suspension of most international financial support for Sudan, military leaders and Hamdok announce a deal for his reinstatement as prime minister. He resigns less than two months later.

Dec. 5, 2022 - Civilian groups sign an initial deal with the military to start a new, two-year political transition and appoint a civilian government.

April 5, 2023 - The signing of a final deal is delayed for a second time amid disputes over whether the army would be placed under civilian oversight and over plans for the integration of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) into the army.

THE TURMOIL

April 13, 2023 - Sudan's army says mobilization by the RSF risks confrontation. Two days later, battles break out between the two forces in Khartoum and other cities.

April 21, 2023 - The number of residents fleeing Khartoum accelerates as army air strikes, clashes and looting hit the capital. Diplomats and expatriates rush to airstrips, borders and other evacuation points in the days and weeks that follow.

May 20, 2023 - At talks in Jeddah, the warring factions agree to a seven-day ceasefire, but fighting barely pauses. The US-Saudi brokered negotiations are the first of several failed international attempts to settle the conflict.

July 2023 - Violence spreads in the strife-torn western region of Darfur, where the RSF makes further advances in the following months.

Dec. 14, 2023 - Families in conflict zones could experience famine-like conditions in 2024, the UN warns. Some 30 million, almost two-thirds of the population, need help, double the number before the war. Humanitarian alerts mount in the following months.

Dec. 19, 2023 - The army withdraws as the RSF advances to take Wad Madani, the capital of al-Gezira state. The RSF largely controls neighboring Khartoum, almost all of Darfur and much of Kordofan, while the army holds the north and east including Sudan's main Red Sea port. Both sides have committed abuses, the UN and the US say.

March 12, 2024 - The army says it has taken control of the state broadcaster's headquarters in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, part of its biggest advance against the RSF in months. Sources say Iranian-made drones are helping the army turn the tide.

April 9, 2024 - Fighting spreads to the up-to-now calm farming state of al-Gadaref, where almost half a million people have taken refuge.


Sudan Crisis: 25 Million in Need, 8 Million Displaced, Famine Fears

 Sudanese refugees collecting water from a well on the Sudanese-Chadian border (EPA)
Sudanese refugees collecting water from a well on the Sudanese-Chadian border (EPA)
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Sudan Crisis: 25 Million in Need, 8 Million Displaced, Famine Fears

 Sudanese refugees collecting water from a well on the Sudanese-Chadian border (EPA)
Sudanese refugees collecting water from a well on the Sudanese-Chadian border (EPA)

In Sudan, a year of conflict has turned lives upside down, with thousands killed and millions forced to leave their homes. Many seek refuge in neighboring countries like Chad, South Sudan, and Egypt.

The crisis threatens Sudan’s stability and risks spreading unrest across the region. While global attention focuses elsewhere, officials warn of the urgent need for action.

Reflecting on the crisis, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, condemned the silence surrounding Sudan, emphasizing the urgent need for international action.

Similarly, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator described the suffering as unimaginable, emphasizing the need for diplomacy, aid access, and funding to prevent further catastrophe as the conflict enters its second year.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths highlighted the escalating hardships stemming from violence, hunger, displacement, and disease, warning that without expanded efforts in three key areas—diplomacy to halt fighting, access to those in need, and funding for humanitarian response—the situation could deteriorate further as the conflict enters its second year.

This stark assessment underscores the critical importance of immediate and concerted international intervention to avert a worsening humanitarian catastrophe in Sudan.

In Sudan, over 15,000 have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict.

According to Linda-Greenfield, around 25 million Sudanese urgently need humanitarian aid, with three-quarters struggling to find enough food. About 8 million have been forced from their homes, making it the world's largest internal displacement crisis.

The UN warns of a looming catastrophe, with Sudan facing the biggest displacement crisis globally and potentially one of the worst hunger crises.

Roughly 18 million are severely food insecure, with nearly 5 million on the edge of famine in conflict zones. Additionally, 3.5 million children suffer from acute malnutrition.

The World Health Organization fears 230,000 children, pregnant women, and new mothers could die in the next few months without immediate aid and funding.


Reaction to Iran’s Drone, Missile Attack on Israel

 Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, in Jerusalem April 14, 2024. (Reuters)
Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, in Jerusalem April 14, 2024. (Reuters)
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Reaction to Iran’s Drone, Missile Attack on Israel

 Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, in Jerusalem April 14, 2024. (Reuters)
Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, in Jerusalem April 14, 2024. (Reuters)

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps said it launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel on Saturday, in an attack that could lead to a major escalation between the regional archenemies.

Here is some reaction to the attack from official statements and postings on social media:

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU

"In recent years, and especially in recent weeks, Israel has been preparing for a direct attack by Iran. Our defensive systems are deployed; we are ready for any scenario, both defensively and offensively. The State of Israel is strong. The IDF is strong. The public is strong.

"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."

IRAN'S MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS

"... Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus. The matter can be deemed concluded.

"However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the US MUST STAY AWAY!"

US PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN

"I just met with my national security team for an update on Iran’s attacks against Israel. Our commitment to Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad."

US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SPEAKER MIKE JOHNSON

"As Israel faces this vicious attack from Iran, America must show our full resolve to stand with our critical ally. The world must be assured: Israel is not alone."

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTONIO GUTERRES

"I strongly condemn the serious escalation represented by the large-scale attack launched on Israel by the Islamic Republic of Iran this evening. I call for an immediate cessation of these hostilities.

"I am deeply alarmed about the very real danger of a devastating region-wide escalation. I urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East.

"I have repeatedly stressed that neither the region nor the world can afford another war."

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER RISHI SUNAK

"I condemn in the strongest terms the Iranian regime’s reckless attack against Israel. These strikes risk inflaming tensions and destabilizing the region. Iran has once again demonstrated that it is intent on sowing chaos in its own backyard.

"The UK will continue to stand up for Israel’s security and that of all our regional partners, including Jordan and Iraq. Alongside our allies, we are urgently working to stabilize the situation and prevent further escalation. No one wants to see more bloodshed.”

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU

"Canada unequivocally condemns Iran’s airborne attacks against Israel. We stand with Israel. After supporting Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 attack, the Iranian regime’s latest actions will further destabilize the region and make lasting peace more difficult.

"These attacks demonstrate yet again the Iranian regime’s disregard for peace and stability in the region. We support Israel’s right to defend itself and its people from these attacks."

GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER ANNALENA BAERBOCK

"Iran has fired drones and missiles at Israel. We strongly condemn the ongoing attack, which could plunge an entire region into chaos. Iran and its proxies must stop this immediately. Israel offers our full solidarity at this time."

GERMAN AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL STEFFEN SEIBERT

"Germany’s solidarity is with all Israelis tonight whom Iran is terrorizing with this unprecedented and ruthless attack: Jews as well as Arabs and Christians, the Bedouins in the Negev as well as the Druze in the Golan. May they all be safe.”

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER STEPHANE SEJOURNE

"France condemns in the strongest terms the attack launched by Iran against Israel. By deciding on such an unprecedented action, Iran is taking a new step in its destabilizing actions and taking the risk of a military escalation."

EUROPEAN UNION FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF JOSEP BORRELL

"The EU strongly condemns the unacceptable Iranian attack against Israel. This is an unprecedented escalation and a grave threat to regional security."

EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT CHARLES MICHEL

"Strongly condemn the attack launched by Iran on Israel. Everything must be done to prevent further regional escalation. More bloodshed must be avoided. We will continue to follow the situation closely with our partners."

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER PEDRO SANCHEZ

"We are following events in the Middle East with the deepest concern. We are in permanent contact with our embassies in the region which will remain open to support Spaniards in the area.”

DUTCH PRIME MINISTER MARK RUTTE

"Very worrying situation in the Middle East. Earlier today, the Netherlands and other countries sent a loud and clear message to Iran to refrain from attacking Israel. The Netherlands strongly condemns Iran's attacks on Israel. Further escalation must be prevented. ... We continue to monitor developments very closely."

DANISH FOREIGN MINISTER LARS LOKKE RASMUSSEN

"Denmark strongly condemns Iran's announced attack on Israel. I urge everyone to show restraint and deescalate the situation. Iran’s destabilizing role in the Middle East is unacceptable - and so is this attack."

NORWEGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ESPEN BARTH EIDE

"I condemn the illegal and dangerous Iranian attack underway against Israel. This will further deteriorate an already extremely volatile situation. We must prevent further escalation of violence in the Middle East. I call upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint."

CZECH REPUBLIC FOREIGN MINISTRY

"Czechia firmly condemns the destabilizing behavior of Iran and its proxies who decided to attack Israel. We reiterate the Israeli right for self-defense. Iran’s long term aggressive behavior is preventing the Middle East region to live in peace and security."

COLOMBIA'S PRESIDENT GUSTAVO PETRO

"It was predictable; we're now in the prelude to World War III precisely when humanity should rebuild its economy towards the rapid goal of decarbonization. The support of the US, in practice, for a genocide, has ignited the world. Everyone knows how wars start, no one knows how they end. If only the people of Israel were high enough, like their ancestors, to stop the madness of their ruler. The United Nations must meet urgently and must immediately commit to peace."

ARGENTINA'S PRESIDENT JAVIER MILEI

"The office of President Javier Milei expresses its solidarity and unwavering commitment to the State of Israel following the attacks by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Republic of Argentina recognizes the right of State-Nations to defend themselves and strongly supports the State of Israel in the defense of its sovereignty, in particular against regimes that promote terror and seek the destruction of western civilization."

PARAGUAY'S PRESIDENT SANTIAGO PENA

"In such difficult times, we express our full support for the people of Israel, and are concerned about the increase of violence in the region. We remain in contact with our embassies in the region to serve our compatriots."

CHILE'S FOREIGN MINISTER ALBERTO VAN KLAVEREN

"We express our concern about the serious escalation of tensions in the Middle East and the Iranian attacks against Israel. Chile condemns the use of force and defends international humanitarian law, which protects civilian lives in armed conflicts."

MEXICO'S FOREIGN MINISTRY

"The government of Mexico expresses deep concern over Iran's attack against Israeli territory, and the impact that this could have on thousands of human lives. Mexico condemns the use of force in international relations, and calls on the parties to self-restrain and seek solutions peacefully to avoid a more general conflict in the Middle East. Mexico also emphasizes the importance of respecting international law for the sake of international peace and security."


Lebanon Recalls Civil War as Latest Unrest Threatens New Strife

Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
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Lebanon Recalls Civil War as Latest Unrest Threatens New Strife

Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)

Lebanon commemorated on Saturday the 49th anniversary of the Lebanese civil war that erupted on April 13, 1975, and ended in 1990 with the adoption of the Taif Accord.

The war left over 200,000 people dead, thousands missing, and massive destruction of state infrastructure and institutions.

People who lived through the war are now warning that the factors that led to its eruption are available now, saying they are almost identical to the conditions that were present in 1975.

The saying “history repeats itself” doesn’t seem to mean anything to the people in Lebanon, said former minister and MP Butros Harb.

He recalled that the “sympathy shown by some Lebanese people, especially its Sunnis, to the Palestinians allowed the Palestine Liberation Organization to effectively seize control of the country” in the 1970s, which was one of the sources of tension that led to the war.

“Today, the Shiite sect, represented by Hezbollah, is insisting on sympathizing with Iran and its interests, again placing Lebanon on a path that may be more dangerous than what took place in the past,” Harb told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The situation today is much more challenging because it pits you in a confrontation with one segment of the Lebanese people – the Shiites – causing a deep division between two camps: one that wants life, stability and prosperity and another that wants martyrdom and to keep fighting and place the country in a constant state of war,” he added.

Harb spoke of factors that helped Hezbollah seize control of Lebanon, such as its shared interest with Christian and non-Christian parties. He criticized former President Michel Aoun, who “in order to become president, obstructed state functioning and allowed Hezbollah to run rampant.”

“Lebanon now habitually lives in a state where it doesn’t have a president or a functioning government or constitutional institutions,” he went on to say.

“Lebanon will never become livable and rid itself of the constant cycle of wars if the Lebanese people don’t wake up and abandon their loyalty to Iran, the Arabs, United States and others,” warned Harb.

“My heart breaks and I ache over what has become of Lebanon,” he said.

Lebanese politician Toufik Sultan echoed Harb’s remarks, saying the factors that sparked the civil war are still present now, including the warlords who were active back then and who still control the country today.

“No one learned from the tragedies of the past,” he lamented in remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat.”

“The players who were active during the war are still present today,” he noted.

“Lebanon is a sick country whose only treatment lies in abandoning sectarianism and for the sects to let go of the interests of their leaders,” he stressed.

Moreover, he said the kidnapping and killing of Pascal Sleiman, the Lebanese Forces coordinator in Jbeil, around a week ago was a major shock in Lebanon that could have led to “rampant chaos.”

On Monday, the army said Sleiman, who had gone missing the day before, was killed in a carjacking by Syrian gang members who then took his body across the border.

His killing has deepened sectarian and political faultines in Lebanon, raising fears of armed clashes between rival factions in a country already beset by a deep economic crisis, and cross-border shelling linked to the Gaza War.

Government and religious officials rushed to quell tensions after the killing prompted fears of renewed street brawls between rival parties and triggered beatings of Syrians.

Lebanon hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the war that erupted in their homeland in 2011. Last year, Lebanese security forces deported dozens of refugees in what rights groups called a violation of international law.

Harb warned that Sleiman’s killing could lead to chaos in Lebanon. “Such practices could lead Syrians in Lebanon to seek any means to defend themselves, stay alive and maintain their sources of income,” he went on to say. He also warned against attempts to exploit the Syrians to deliberately stir strife.

He acknowledged that the presence of the refugees throughout the country was “very dangerous for Lebanon,” calling for “finding a way to return them home.”

He heavily blamed the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Gebran Bassil for the problem, recalling that when the Syrians first started pouring into Lebanon at the beginning of the conflict, he had “strongly opposed at cabinet the establishment of camps where they could be sheltered under United Nations supervision.”

The unrest and weakening of official authorities are a reflection of the weakness of the state and inability to elect a new president, form a new government and enact reforms that would resolve several crises.

Sultan said tackling the situation and averting a new war can only take place through an internal settlement that would be less costly than listening to foreign dictates.

“Whoever has risen to the top must show some humility and reach an understanding with their partners in the nation to avoid strife that could destroy the country,” he urged.

Furthermore, he warned that the refugee problem was “a danger to all the Lebanese people, not just its Christians,” but violence is not the way to resolve it.

“The Syrian presence in Lebanon would not have become so problematic were it not for international opposition to their return home, which is part of a conspiracy against Lebanon,” he said.


Children Play in Rubble of Gaza for Eid Holiday

Displaced Palestinian children play as they help disassemble their tent in southern Gaza's Rafah before heading to Khan Younis on April 11, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group. (AFP)
Displaced Palestinian children play as they help disassemble their tent in southern Gaza's Rafah before heading to Khan Younis on April 11, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group. (AFP)
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Children Play in Rubble of Gaza for Eid Holiday

Displaced Palestinian children play as they help disassemble their tent in southern Gaza's Rafah before heading to Khan Younis on April 11, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group. (AFP)
Displaced Palestinian children play as they help disassemble their tent in southern Gaza's Rafah before heading to Khan Younis on April 11, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group. (AFP)

Girls played on a makeshift seesaw in a Gaza bomb site this week while boys chased across rubble with plastic guns, their games reflecting an Eid al-Fitr holiday dominated by the war that has devastated the enclave.

Six months of an Israeli air and ground campaign in Gaza have changed all aspects of life, with most people driven from their homes, parts of the enclave facing famine, and disease spreading through the tent cities where many now live.

Eid al-Fitr, the festival that ends the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, is usually a time for family celebrations including gifts of new toys for children.

This year, few can afford new toys, or find any in market stalls since Israel halted commercial imports into Gaza as part of its offensive to destroy Hamas, launched after the group mounted an armed rampage in Israel on Oct. 7.

"We built this game because all our toys have been destroyed and our houses have been destroyed and there's nothing for us to play with except this pipe," said Magd Dahman, 14, one of a group of children who made the seesaw in the rubble of a bomb site.

The children of that part of Jabalia refugee camp, near Gaza City in the most damaged northern part of the tiny, crowded Gaza Strip, crowd around the seesaw in a Reuters video, sitting three-in-a-row on the long pipe it is made from.

One boy, Mohamed Abu al-Qomsan, 14, plays a drum with his hands and signs sang as others gather round, and two small girls in striped jumpers take over the seesaw.

"There isn't an atmosphere of Eid or the joy that comes with it," he says. "As you can see, children are playing on the rubble and rocks. I'm entertaining them."

Earlier in the week, boys with bright plastic guns staged a mock battle across the rubble of Jabalia camp, re-enacting those fought across the same territory over recent months between Hamas fighters and invading Israeli forces.

"Some of these children's fathers have been martyred. Their mothers have been martyred," said Abdulrahman Abu Karsh, an activist organizing children's entertainment in Rafah in the south of Gaza. "There's sadness everywhere."


Sudan Paris Conference Takes Place Monday in Absence of Conflict Parties

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes the President of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, during the Paris conference, May 17, 2021 (AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes the President of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, during the Paris conference, May 17, 2021 (AFP)
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Sudan Paris Conference Takes Place Monday in Absence of Conflict Parties

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes the President of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, during the Paris conference, May 17, 2021 (AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes the President of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, during the Paris conference, May 17, 2021 (AFP)

Paris is finalizing a double event slated for Monday, April 15, focusing on the Sudanese situation from both political and humanitarian angles. Organized in collaboration with Germany and the European Union, the conference proceeds in the absence of official Sudanese representation.

On the political front, a ministerial-level meeting will convene on Monday morning at the historic headquarters of the French Foreign Ministry, jointly chaired by France, Germany, and the European Union. The stated objective, as per a Foreign Ministry statement, is “to support regional and international peace initiatives” aimed at putting an end to the war raging in Sudan.

The meeting will be followed by a humanitarian conference, which will be headed by French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné and his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, the European Union’s foreign policy official Josep Borrell, and the EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčić, in the presence of “African and European authorities and officials from international organizations and civil society.”

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the conference aims to achieve three main goals: securing commitment to finance the international response to the humanitarian needs of Sudan, ensuring full, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all parts of the country, and preventing instability in the international system from overshadowing crises affecting the African continent, whether in Sudan, where about 8 million people were displaced, or in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In short, providing the necessary funds to respond to the dramatic humanitarian situation in Sudan and neighboring countries, and calling on the parties to the conflict “to put an end to the ongoing fighting and ensure safe access to humanitarian aid,” will constitute the two primary pillars of the conference.

The upcoming conference differs from the international summit organized by Paris in May 2021, under the slogan “Supporting the Democratic Transition” in Sudan, in which the country was represented by the Prime Minister of the Transitional Government, Abdullah Hamdok, and the Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.

Despite the international, economic, and financial support provided by the aforementioned summit for the democratic transition process, Sudan missed the opportunity due to the outbreak of war a year ago between the army and the Rapid Support Forces.


Sudan’s War Began a Year Ago. Children Are among Its Most Fragile Survivors

Children walk at the school housing displaced Sudanese who fled violence in war-torn Sudan, near the eastern city of Gedaref, on March 10, 2024. (AFP)
Children walk at the school housing displaced Sudanese who fled violence in war-torn Sudan, near the eastern city of Gedaref, on March 10, 2024. (AFP)
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Sudan’s War Began a Year Ago. Children Are among Its Most Fragile Survivors

Children walk at the school housing displaced Sudanese who fled violence in war-torn Sudan, near the eastern city of Gedaref, on March 10, 2024. (AFP)
Children walk at the school housing displaced Sudanese who fled violence in war-torn Sudan, near the eastern city of Gedaref, on March 10, 2024. (AFP)

The war in Sudan began a year ago. Here in a remote camp for tens of thousands of people who have fled into neighboring Chad, the anniversary is marked by near starvation.

Assadig Abubaker Salih is a 42-year-old mother of six. The family survived the hot, dusty journey from their home to this sprawling camp of wind-whipped blue tents stretching in rows toward the horizon.

“We are in a very bad situation. We have suffered since we left our country. My husband died," she said. “There is nothing here. We need the essentials. We don’t even have sugar.”

Back home, Sudan's military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, is fighting the paramilitary group known as Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, for greater resources. Sudan is home to around 45 million people.

Close to 9 million people have fled their homes, according to the United Nations, and more than 1 million have left the country. Thousands have been killed in a conflict overshadowed by the ones in Gaza and Ukraine. The UN says it has asked for $2.7 billion in funding to respond to humanitarian needs but has received $155 million — or 6%.

“It has been everyday Sudanese who have — often at great personal risk —stepped up to support each other,” Eatizaz Yousif, country director with the International Rescue Committee, said in a joint statement by aid groups urging the world to give more.

The UN has warned of an impending generational catastrophe. An estimated 3 million Sudanese children are malnourished. About 19 million children are out of school. A quarter of Sudan's hospitals are no longer functioning.

Aid organizations say women and children are bearing the worst of the conflict.

Even here, across the border, resources are stretched thin after more than 570,000 Sudanese arrived over the past year. Aid workers warn they are set to run out of some supplies within weeks. Shortages of water and ways to keep clean mean a growing risk of disease.

A growing number of children are arriving at the pediatric unit run by the Doctors Without Borders charity with pulmonary complications, a result of the harsh environment. The organization has also documented rising cases of hepatitis E, which can be deadly for pregnant women.

"Many, many of our babies are severely malnourished,” said Cordula Haffner, the Doctors Without Borders hospital coordinator at the camp. “The reason is hygiene, not enough food, not enough water. This is a crisis that will continue. We will see even more children like this.”

More than 16,000 children younger than 5 arriving in Chad from Sudan have had severe acute malnutrition, according to the UN — a stage where the effects of hunger are clearly visible.

Many people in this camp fled some of the conflict’s worst fighting in Sudan’s vast western region of Darfur. But the most desperate are trapped behind the front lines.

“We are seeing a catastrophe unfolding in North Darfur, where our teams have estimated that 13 children are dying each day of malnutrition and related health conditions at a camp for displaced people,” Avril Benoît, executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the US, said in a statement. She urged Sudanese authorities to stop blocking aid.

Some Sudanese manage to get help in time. One mother of six, Rachid Yaya Mohammed, said she came to the hospital at this camp in Chad because she is six months pregnant.

Two of her smallest children — twins — slept beside her.

Conditions are expected to worsen in the coming lean season between harvests, when food reserves are depleted and rains drive up rates of malaria.

Sudan plunged into chaos a year ago when clashes erupted in the capital, Khartoum, and spread.


Sudan on April 11: Bashir Falls, Legacy Endures

Sudanese from other provinces arrive in Khartoum by train to join the popular celebrations following the fall of the Bashir regime (EPA)
Sudanese from other provinces arrive in Khartoum by train to join the popular celebrations following the fall of the Bashir regime (EPA)
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Sudan on April 11: Bashir Falls, Legacy Endures

Sudanese from other provinces arrive in Khartoum by train to join the popular celebrations following the fall of the Bashir regime (EPA)
Sudanese from other provinces arrive in Khartoum by train to join the popular celebrations following the fall of the Bashir regime (EPA)

In the early hours of April 11, 2019, Sudanese woke up to rumors that the army was siding with protesters demanding the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir.

This led to Bashir’s removal, ending his Islamist-backed regime, which had ruled for three decades. Soon, millions gathered at protest sites across the country, hoping for real change.

Behind the scenes, reports suggested that Bashir was deceived by his own security chief, who warned him about crushing the protests but then turned against him.

When Bashir woke up, he found his guards replaced and was told by a senior officer that his own security committee had decided to remove him, as he had lost control of the country.

A high-ranking military leader, second-in-command of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), told Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview on March 4, 2021, that due to the escalating revolution, military leaders decided to oust Bashir.

They tasked the then head of intelligence, Salah Abdallah (Gosh), to deliver the message. Initially reluctant, Gosh eventually complied, fearing imprisonment.

Around noon, jubilant protesters realized that Bashir’s regime had collapsed. Tears of joy flowed as they celebrated what they saw as a triumph.

However, their joy was short-lived as Bashir’s deputy, Awad Ibn Auf, appeared on state TV announcing the regime’s removal and the suspension of the constitution.

In a brief address, Ibn Auf declared a two-year transitional period under military control, imposed a three-month state of emergency, enforced a curfew, shut down airspace and borders, and formed a Transitional Military Council dominated by Islamist officers.

Rebel leaders outside the army headquarters immediately rejected Ibn Auf’s moves, seeing them as an attempt to stifle their revolution and revive the Islamist regime.

They chanted “fall again,” seeing Bashir's ousting as the first blow and Ibn Auf’s removal as the second.

Despite being appointed head of the Transitional Military Council, Ibn Auf resigned the next day due to lack of support from the rebels and the revolution’s leaders. His rule became one of Sudan’s shortest, second only to Hashim al-Atta, who ruled for just three days.

Media reports say Ibn Auf called RSF Commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti) and told him he was stepping down as president, as long as he wasn’t replaced by the well-known Islamist officer Kamal Abdel Maarouf.

Instead, he suggested General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who was serving as the army’s Inspector General. So, Burhan, relatively unknown, became the head of the Transitional Military Council and the state.

He chose Hemedti as his deputy. Burhan said he convinced Hemedti to join him despite Hemedti’s earlier refusal to take on a leadership role.

Bashir’s removal came as a surprise, but reports circulating two months earlier suggested that leaders within the ruling party and the political arm had secret plans to oust him.

These plans were said to be carried out by the “Security Committee,” which included Islamist officers in the army and intelligence, along with the leader of the RSF.

At the time, Reuters reported that Gosh, the head of the intelligence agency, visited political prisoners, including party leaders, asking for their support in a plan for a new political system and finding a graceful exit for Bashir, with the help of a regional state.

Gosh then announced that Bashir would step down from the presidency of the National Congress Party and would not seek re-election in 2020. However, Bashir later downplayed Gosh’s statements in a televised speech.

The National Congress Party and the Islamic Movement planned to remove Bashir while still holding power through the Security Committee. Gosh was quoted as saying that “Bashir is finished.” However, the protesters’ demands for civilian rule disrupted the Islamists’ plans.

This led to the gradual removal of some top figures from the Security Committee. The military had to negotiate with civilian protest leaders to share power, resulting in a power-sharing agreement (5+5).

Relations between civilian and military factions became strained after an attempted coup by Islamist officers on September 21, 2021. Civilians accused the military of involvement, but military leaders denied it, dismissing the accusation as hypocritical.

Abdalla Hamdok, then Deputy Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, refused to negotiate with civilians, worsening the divide between the two groups.

Amid mounting tensions, Islamist groups saw an opportunity to regain influence after lying low for months. They organized protests, initially ignored by the military but possibly supported by security forces.

These protests brought the Islamists back into the spotlight. However, divisions emerged within the alliance supporting civilian rule after the Juba Peace Agreement, leading to a split between those backing the government and those siding with the military.

The latter staged a protest demanding the removal of the civilian government.

On October 25, 2021, military leaders led a coup, seizing power and arresting Prime Minister Hamdok and others. They declared a state of emergency, dissolved the government, and faced resistance met with force, resulting in civilian deaths.

Despite the ousting of Bashir’s regime five years ago, its influence persists, with Islamists still holding sway and suspected of instigating the coup and fueling the war that erupted in April 2023. While Bashir may have fallen, his legacy remains.