The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 59

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, April 8th, 2024

Good morning everyone,

Let’s jump right in today.

In Europe, Armenia and Azerbaijan clash, protests are held in Turkey after an elected opposition mayor is removed by the ruling party, and an alleged Russian informant is sentenced in Ukraine.

Over in the Middle East, Israel withdraws some troops from Gaza, and Iran and the US trade warnings.

Meanwhile, in Africa, Senegal receives a new President, civilians are killed in the DRC, and Kenya and Somalia face barriers in re-opening their border.

In the Americas, Ecuadorian authorities raid the Mexican Embassy, the Venezuelan government allows safe passage for several political asylees, and Ecuador arrests multiple suspects in the nation’s ongoing war against corruption.

In Asia and Oceania, the KNLA scores a major victory in Myanmar, China and the former President of Taiwan are set to meet, and China and the US-alliance continue their back and forth show of force.

All in all, it’s just another day at the office. Let's dive in:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, Trent Barr, & the Atlas team

Israel Strikes Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria

The building on the left with the Iranian flag is the Iranian embassy, with the smoking ruin next door being the location of the attack.

April 1st, 2024: (2 Minute Read) In an unprecedented airstrike in the capital of Syria, on the building attached to the Iranian consulate at least seven ranking officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed. Though Israel has not officially claimed responsibility for the attack, much of the international community, including the United States, attributes the attack to the Israeli military. The attack was met with serious international outrage, as intentionally striking a diplomatic outpost is against international protocol. Supporters of Israel, however, defend the attack as it targeted several key figures orchestrating fighting throughout Gaza and southern Lebanon.

At approximately 1000 EST, initial reports indicated several explosions after air defenses were activated over Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) was the first official body to comment on the incident, confirming the explosions next to the Iranian Embassy in al-Mazzeh. Local media was the first to attribute the explosions to Israeli airstrikes, which are common throughout southern Syria and, in particular, Damascus.

The building that was targeted is said to often be used to hold meetings and as the residence of the Iranian ambassador.

By 1030 EST, casualty numbers had been reported at six deaths. SOHR had also reported that a senior Iranian official was targeted in the strike. Iranian ambassador Hossein Akbari and his family were confirmed to be unharmed.

Later in the day, Iranian state news outlet Fars reported the official casualties at seven:

  • Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi (Quds Force Commander for Syria and Lebanon)

  • General Hossein Aminullah (Quds Force Chief of General Staff for Syria and Lebanon)

  • Brigadier General Haj Rahimi (Quds Force Commander)

  • Seyyed Mehdi Jalalati

  • Mohsen Sedaqat

  • Ali Agha Babaei

  • Seyyed Ali Salehi Rouzbahani

Several Syrian civilians were also reportedly killed in the bombing.

Iran has vowed retaliation, reportedly communicating heavily with the United States through back channels. Several Iranian officials have stated publicly that they hold the United States responsible for Israel’s actions.

Several publications reported that the IRGC officers were meeting with Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders during the attack, but this has not yet been officially confirmed.

As of the publication of this newsletter, Iran has yet to make a formal retaliatory attack. Despite this, it is still expected, with many experts suggesting it could be a direct Iranian attack on Israeli forces. Israel has mobilized much of it’s air reserves and has prepared for Iran’s response. The Iranian foreign ministry has stated, “Iran reserves the right to take countermeasures and decide on the type of reaction and punishment.”.

The United States has informed Iran through backchannels that they did not have previous knowledge of the attack. China and Russia both condemned the attack, with Russian officials calling it an “act of terrorism” and China reminding the world to respect Syria’s sovereignty.


April 5th - 7th, 2024 - Several small clashes have taken place on the Armenia/Azerbaijan border, marking yet another escalation in what has lately been a series of different escalations. Various clashes, all with small arms fire, have been reported by both sides at a number of different points along the entirety of the border. Despite the frequency of clashes, neither side has reported any casualties; however, Armenian authorities and civilians reported damage to several different locations within Armenian villages, including Armenian graveyards. Both sides have accused the other of a military buildup, an accusation which both sides have denied. Alongside Armenia’s denial was a report by the EU Civilian Monitoring mission, which reported no unusual military movements on the Armenian side of the border. Both sides have also denied firing upon the other in the repeated clashes that have occurred.

A photo of the Azeri Ministry of Defence (Photo from

April 3rd, 2024 - Protests broke out in Turkey on Tuesday after a Kurdish mayor belonging to the People's Equality and Democracy (DEM) party was removed from office following the mayor’s victory over President Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AKP) party. The mayor, Abdullah Zeydan, was removed after Turkey’s Ministry of Justice opted to disqualify him just two days before election day, with the Ministry of Justice granting the position to Abdullahat Arvas, who secured just 27.91% of the vote compared to Zeydan’s 55.17%. Clashes broke out between protestors and authorities, prompting the local government to establish a curfew, banning demonstrations and mass public gatherings for 15 days. At least 340 people have been arrested since the start of demonstrations, with authorities claiming that those arrested had attacked authorities and shouted slogans supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU. These protests seemed to be effective as Zeydan was reappointed mayor on Wednesday.

April 4th, 2024 - The Ukrainian Donetsk Region Prosecutor’s Office officially sentenced the individual thought to be responsible for handing information to the Russian Federation which resulted in a missile strike on the RIA Pizzeria in Kramatorsk, Donetsk, Ukraine on June 27th, 2023. The strike left 13 people dead which included three minors and a United States Marine Corps veteran dead while 61 others were wounded in the attack. The restaurant was a meeting place for both locals and a number of military officials and foreign correspondents with a number of those being present at the time of the attack. The individual, a Ukrainian citizen, was sentenced to life in prison for high treason while his properties were also seized by the state. The convicted provided targeting data on Ukrainian troop position to the Intelligence Department of the Internal Troops Command of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Russian separatists active in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. At the direction of his handlers, the convicted provided location data and kept a record of Ukrainian military vehicles in the city via Telegram.

Middle East

April 7th, 2024 - Israel has announced that they are withdrawing a significant amount of troops from Gaza, as they are pulling the 98th Commando Division in order to “recuperate and prepare for future operations.” Israeli Minister of Defence, Yoav Gallant, said that the “achievements made by the IDF’s Division 98 and its units are extremely impressive. They have eliminated terrorists and destroyed terror targets.” While the withdrawal represents a scaling down of the troop presence in Gaza, the IDF’s Nahal Brigade and the 162nd Division are still within Gaza in order to continue operations and “preserve the IDF’s freedom of action and its ability to conduct precise intelligence-based operations.” The withdrawal of troops brings the IDF’s troop count in Gaza to its lowest point since the beginning of their ground invasion of Gaza in October and calls into question what the future of the Israeli offensive in Gaza will look like. Most notably, it calls into question the impending Israeli operation in Rafah. Rafah, in southern Gaza, was previously established by Israel as one of the 'safe’ zones within Gaza. As such, it has become host to approximately 1.4 million people. It also serves as the primary base of operations for humanitarian organizations operating in Gaza. Israel has announced plans to launch a ground operation in Rafah, in order to finish off what they say are Hamas’ last remaining divisions. However, much of the international community has been critical of any such operation, claiming it would cause extensive civilian casualties and mark an effective end to humanitarian aid in Gaza. The US and Israel have notedly clashed on the issue, with the US publicly stating their opposition to an operation. Israel stated they would go ahead with the operation, with or without the US’ approval, however the withdrawal of troops suggests that plans may have either been changed or simply just delayed. 

Israeli Artillery fires towards Gaza, December 14th, 2023 (Photo from AP Photo/Leo Correa, File).

April 6th, 2024 - Iran has requested the US “step aside” pending their response to the Israeli strike on the Iranian embassy in Syria several days earlier. They have “warned the US not to get dragged into Netanyahu’s trap.” The US responded by warning Iran not to use the embassy strike as an excuse to attack American targets within the Middle East, according to the US State Department. The world has been watching for Iran’s response to the strike after Iran vowed to take revenge on Israel for the strike. Many believe that Iran will attack Israel through a proxy, as they have many times in the past; however, some worry about the possibility of a direct Iranian strike upon Israel, which would be a massive escalation.


April 2nd, 2024 - Bassirou Diomaye Faye has officially been inaugurated as the President of Senegal after only being out of jail for two weeks. His victory came in the first round of voting, marking a significant victory for the nation's opposition. The transfer of power between now-President Faye and previous Senegalese President Macky Sall was peaceful, a welcome event in a region that has been rocked by violent coups in the last several years. Several hours after the president’s inauguration, he named Ousmane Sonko as his prime minister. Ousmane Sonko is another opposition leader in Senegal and has witnessed extensive levels of support throughout the country. However, Sonko was barred from running in the election by Senegal’s Constitutional Court, and thus he named Faye as his replacement for the election. The opposition victory represents a significant shift in Senegal, a nation that has been plagued by youth unemployment and corruption, two issues President Faye has promised to tackle.

Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye pictured during his inauguration ceremony on April 2nd, 2024 (Photo from Reuters).

April 3rd, 2024 - Local sources within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have reported that an attack by the DRC's Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group has left at least 10 civilians dead. The attack took place in a village named Mangodomu, in the DRC's North Kivu province. Following the attack, DRC military authorities again renewed their vows to destroy the ADF. The ADF has it's origin in Uganda, where it was formed and began operations in 1996. The group was formed and persists as an Islamic extremist group. They hold ties to a number of rather prominent Islamic extremist groups, such as the Islamic State (to whom their leader has sworn allegiance) and alleged ties to Al-Qaeda and Somalia's Al-Shabaab.

April 2nd, 2024 - Kenya's Interior Principal Secretary, Raymond Omollo, has announced that the Kenyan border with Somalia is to remain closed, citing further security challenges that have plagued the border for many years. The border was initially closed in 2011 and has remained as such as Somalia struggles with insurgencies, primarily from the Al-Shabaab militant group. Kenya closed the border after Al-Shabaab militants launched several attacks across and around the border. In 2023, Somalian and Kenyan authorities announced their intention to finally reopen the approximately 800km long border. However, there has been much difficulty in securing the border, particularly as Somalia's insurgency problems persist and the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, ATMIS, slowly winds down and prepares for its withdrawal from the country. Somalia was recently fully admitted to the East African Community (EAC), of which Kenya is also a member state, and thus re-opening the border in order to facilitate Somalia’s economic integration into the bloc is likely to be a priority.

The Americas

April 5th, 2024 - Ecuadorian authorities raided the Mexican embassy on Friday in order to bring the arrest of former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas, which led to a total suspension of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The arrest comes after two convictions on two separate charges of corruption against the former VP, which resulted in the issuance of a warrant for arrest in January. Following the issuing of the warrant, the VP fled to the Mexican embassy in order to apply for asylum, an application that would be approved by the Mexican government. Ecuadorian authorities stated this sought-after asylum was “not lawful” as the former VP had already been convicted on the charges established. The arrest follows an increase in tensions between the two Latin American nations, with the Ecuadorian government declaring the Mexican ambassador a “persona non grata,” requesting that the ambassador leave Ecuador “soon.”

Ecuadorian military officials pictured standing outside of of Ecuador's Flagrancy Unit, where former Ecuador Vice President Jorge Glas was taken following his arrest. (Photo from Karen Toro/Reuters)

April 5th, 2024 - The Venezuelan government stated that it would allow six members of the country’s leading opposition party safe passage to Argentina on Friday after authorities issued arrest warrants for the group. The six belonged to Venezuela’s leading opposition party, Vente Venezuela, which has faced numerous setbacks since the Venezuelan government announced presidential elections for 2024. Following the six political figures seeking aid from the Argentine Embassy, Venezuelan authorities began a days-long siege on the embassy, which culminated in the shutdown of power and other necessities. While Omar González Moreno, a former deputy and one of the regional coordinators of the party’s electoral command, claimed there is “video evidence” of state workers tampering with “part of the equipment that allows only the residence of the Argentine ambassador in Caracas to be without electrical service,” The government stated that authorities are waiting for their Argentine counterparts to transport the six out of the country.

April 3rd, 2024 - 14 people were arrested in Ecuador on Wednesday amid the country’s ongoing anti-corruption investigation dubbed "Metastasis,” which has seen a number of key judicial staffers detained in March on charges of corruption. The names of those arrested have yet to be released; however, some have speculated that some among them may be those formerly detained. The investigation into metastasis, a term used to describe the spread of malignant growth, began in 2022 following the murder of drug lord Leandro Norero, who was killed while serving time in prison. Investigators searched Norero’s phone, discovering evidence of high-ranking state officials cooperating with Norero while handing out favors in exchange for money, gold, prostitutes, apartments, and other luxuries. Some speculate the investigation was the true cause of Ecuador’s ongoing internal struggle against the various gangs in the nation, which current President Daniel Noboa has labeled “terrorist organizations” as weeks before the wave of violence, raids related to Metastasis were launched. Following the success of these raids, Attorney General Diana Salazar stated that the investigation would surely be responded to with “an escalation of violence” from criminal organizations.

Asia and Oceania

April 8th, 2024 - The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) achieved a significant military victory in Myawaddy on April 7th. Up to 500 members of the 356th and 357th Light Infantry Battalions and the 275th Light Infantry Battalions have surrendered in the last 24 hours to the KNLA. However, a number of junta forces have reportedly been able to evacuate the region by Thai military aircraft after Naypyidaw requested supported from Bangkok. By morning on April 7th, Myanmar National Airlines and a military ATR72-600 aircraft were coordinated to land at Mae Sot Airport in Tak, Thailand to fly the survivors to Yangon, Myanmar. This is the first bi-lateral coordination of this kind since the 2021 coup in which a foreign partner has directly intervened in the ongoing civil war. On April 8th, the Thai government began confirming that Myanmar military and diplomatic personnel and their families departed Mae Sot airport. Thai Prime Minister Srettha and the Thai Foreign Ministry made public statements that no military supplies or capabilities were transferred to Thailand and that this operation was strictly humanitarian. The Thai Foreign Ministry also confirmed that Myanmar initially requested three humanitarian flights to transfer their personnel out of the rebel held regions and back to Yangon. However, the junta cancelled two of the three flights, only successfully conducting one flight. It is not currently clear if all personnel were evacuated.

Local media reporting on the evacuation via X.

April 7th, 2024 - The planned meeting between former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will now be held on April 10th . The meeting was originally scheduled to be held on April 8th , after Ma and the student delegation he is leading arrived in Beijing. However, the delegation received notice of the new itinerary on April 6th during their visit to the city of Xi’an. Sources say that the reason for the meeting between Ma and Xi is to increase publicity on Taiwan Strait issues before the summit between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden, scheduled to be held on April 10th . The meeting also occurs before the April 11th trilateral U.S.-Japan-Philippines summit, which will focus on regional issues such as the Taiwan Strait and the East China Sea.

April 7th, 2024 - The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Southern Command conducted naval and aerial exercises on the same day as the United States, Australia, Japan, and Philippine naval exercises today, April 7th. The joint exercises between the four nations have been described by Global Times analysts  as a “defiant” and “muscle flexing” move against China, a show of force attempt amid rising tensions in the region. Global Times analysts claimed China’s response is a “tit-for-tat” response, suggesting China’s firmness and determination to protect its interests within the South China Sea and showing the PLA is prepared to respond to any contingency. The Chinese drill also occurred before the gathering of U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on April 11th in the White House.

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