Compulsory Military Service Prompts Migration of Youths in Southern Syria

Crowds of youths are seen outside the Department of Immigration and Passports in Daraa. (Daraa 24 Network)
Crowds of youths are seen outside the Department of Immigration and Passports in Daraa. (Daraa 24 Network)
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Compulsory Military Service Prompts Migration of Youths in Southern Syria

Crowds of youths are seen outside the Department of Immigration and Passports in Daraa. (Daraa 24 Network)
Crowds of youths are seen outside the Department of Immigration and Passports in Daraa. (Daraa 24 Network)

Syrian youths seeking to avoid mandatory military service by the regime usually flee to the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida where some regions are still outside the control of the regime.

The regime tried to take advantage of the situation by issuing in April 2021 a law in Daraa that grants men between the ages of 19 and 42 a one-year grace period, during which they may obtain an “administrative postponement” of their conscription.

It followed that with contradictory decisions against those exempted, such as a travel ban in May and later, an order to obtain a “travel permit” from military recruitment centers.

A member of the negotiation committees in Daraa told Asharq Al-Awsat that the youths soon rushed to obtain passports, allowing the regime to reap direct and indirect revenues from its decisions.

This, according to the source, led to an unprecedented crisis that, as always in Syria, created a black market and rampant corruption in the country’s Department of Immigration and Passports.

Youths wishing to obtain a new passport as soon as possible paid millions of Syrian pounds to flee the country.

People seeking to avoid conscription usually have two choices: flee the country through legal or illegal means, or escape to regions outside regime control.

One man in Daraa, who has rejected compulsory military service, said such practices emerged with the eruption of the anti-regime protests in the province back in 2011.

The phenomena even extended to officers who refused orders to quell the protests, he revealed.

Now, the circumstances have changed, he went on to say. He compared joining the military to one throwing himself into the unknown.

They may spend years in the military, he added, citing examples of service that stretched to ten years given the ongoing conflict in the country.

Given the situation, he said, it is understandable for youths to be at a loss. No future awaits them after spending years in mandatory service, “that is if they stayed alive.”

People seeking to flee Syria would need anywhere between USD 10,000 to 16,000 to reach countries of asylum. Some have taken the risk of selling their properties, cars and homes to raise these funds.

Activists in Sweida said mandatory conscription has created tensions between the regime and the people.

The tensions have reached such an extent that locals Daraa and Sweida are confronting regime forces that are calling up youths to enlist.

Armed groups that remain active in southern Syria are still to this day preventing the regime forces from forcibly taking youths to join the military.



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.


Did Israel Eliminate Hamas After Six Months of War?

Children stand in the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Children stand in the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Did Israel Eliminate Hamas After Six Months of War?

Children stand in the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Children stand in the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

After six months of bloody fighting in the Gaza Strip, it remains unclear if Israel has achieved its goal of wiping out Hamas and its control of the Palestinian enclave.

As the conflict continues and Israel withdraws from some parts of Gaza, the crucial question arises: Will Hamas be ousted? Can Israel step in to fill the void?

Before the pullback, Israel promised a new government, but doubts grew when Hamas quickly regained power in certain areas.

Residents in Gaza who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat doubt Hamas will go unless it willingly hands over control to the Palestinian Authority, which won’t be easy.

The Palestinian group has managed to keep its administrative structure intact during the ongoing conflict.

It continues to oversee security, police, ministries, and institutions, even paying partial salaries to its employees.

Despite Israeli attacks on its economic assets, Hamas has distributed financial advances to its members.

According to sources within the Hamas government, the movement’s financial arm has worked to ensure salaries for government employees and operatives, despite Israeli strikes on money storage sites.

Employees, like A.S. from the Hamas police force, receive constant instructions to maintain security. The internal security apparatus has arrested collaborators with Israeli forces.

A.S. and their colleagues have also received limited financial disbursements since the onset of the conflict.

“We receive semi-daily instructions focused on maintaining security, monitoring markets and commodity prices, and ensuring protection for aid entering for distribution to citizens,” A.S. told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Hamas activists, operating individually, are gradually regaining control in Gaza, challenging Israel’s objectives. However, Israel finds it difficult to target Hamas’ entire security apparatus.

Although the group has suffered significant losses, including headquarters and personnel, it remains standing. Israel claims to have killed many Hamas members but faces skepticism from Palestinians.

Ridwan Maqbul, a political science graduate from Al-Azhar University in Gaza, believes Hamas’ leadership still maintains control and scoffs at the idea of a tribal alternative government.


Are Iranian Drones Helping the Army Gain Ground in Sudan War?

A photo released by the official website of the Iranian Army on April 20, 2023, of Iran-made drones.Source: Iranian Army/AP Photo
A photo released by the official website of the Iranian Army on April 20, 2023, of Iran-made drones.Source: Iranian Army/AP Photo
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Are Iranian Drones Helping the Army Gain Ground in Sudan War?

A photo released by the official website of the Iranian Army on April 20, 2023, of Iran-made drones.Source: Iranian Army/AP Photo
A photo released by the official website of the Iranian Army on April 20, 2023, of Iran-made drones.Source: Iranian Army/AP Photo

A year into Sudan's civil war, Iranian-made armed drones have helped the army turn the tide of the conflict, halting the progress of the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Force and regaining territory around the capital, a senior army source told Reuters.

Six Iranian sources, regional officials and diplomats - who, like the army source, asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information - also told Reuters the military had acquired Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the past few months.

The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) used some older UAVs in the first months of the war alongside artillery batteries and fighter jets, but had little success in rooting out RSF fighters embedded in heavily populated neighborhoods in Khartoum and other cities, more than a dozen Khartoum residents said.

In January, nine months after fighting erupted, much more effective drones began operating from the army's Wadi Sayidna base to the north of Khartoum, according to five eyewitnesses living in the area.

The residents said the drones appeared to monitor RSF movements, target their positions, and pinpoint artillery strikes in Omdurman, one of three cities on the banks of the Nile that comprise the capital Khartoum.

"In recent weeks, the army has begun to use precise drones in military operations, which forced the RSF to flee from many areas and allowed the army to deploy forces on the ground," said Mohamed Othman, a 59-year-old resident of Omdurman's Al-Thawra district.

The extent and manner of the army's deployment of Iranian UAVs in Omdurman and other areas has not been previously reported. Bloomberg and Sudanese media have reported the presence of Iranian drones in the country.

The senior Sudanese army source denied that the Iranian-made drones came directly from Iran, and declined to say how they were procured or how many the army had received.

The source that while diplomatic cooperation between Sudan and Iran had been restored last year, official military cooperation was still pending.

Asked about Iranian drones, Sudan's acting foreign minister Ali Sadeq, who visited Iran last year and is aligned with the army, told Reuters: "Sudan did not obtain any weapons from Iran."

The army's media department and Iran's foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

A regional source close to Iran's clerical rulers said Iranian Mohajer and Ababil drones had been transported to Sudan several times since late last year by Iran's Qeshm Fars Air. Mohajer and Ababil drones are made by companies operating under Iran's Ministry of Defense, which did not immediately reply to a request for comment.