The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 63

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, May 6th, 2024

Good morning everyone,

Let’s jump right in today.

In Europe, the ICJ rules on the Nicaragua v, Germany case, protestors take to the streets of Germany, and Russia is accused of leading a cyber campaign against several western nations.

Over in the Middle East, Israel bans Al-Jazeera, and two rival Palestinian factions hold meetings together.

Meanwhile, in Africa, the M23 rebels in the DRC seize a key mining town, and Rwanda receives its first migrant from the UK.

In the Americas, Argentina passes an economic reform bill through the Chamber of Deputies, the President of Colombia announces missing munitions, and the International Court of Justice has entered deliberation regarding provisional measures in the Mexico-Ecuador case.

In Asia and Oceania, the Coast Guard’s of China and the Philippines clash, and Myanmar’s military junta faces more military losses while negotiations break down.

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

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

Israeli Invasion of Rafah is Imminent

May 6th, 2024: (3 Minute Read) 

The IDF has began dropping leaflets on eastern areas of Rafah, and published maps online ordering civilians within the area to evacuate. The map shows red zones within Rafah, and areas within Gaza that civilians are to evacuate to in order to escape an impending invasion.

Israeli Minister of Defence, Yoav Gallant, reportedly held an overnight phone conversation with the US Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, in which he stated that Israel had "no choice" but to invade Rafah. The US has stated on multiple occasions that they are opposed to the invasion. US and Israeli officials have clashed on the issue on multiple occasions.

There is no definitive time that the invasion will begin, however Israeli strikes on areas in and around Rafah have been increasing lately, and with evacuations beginning, it is likely to be soon. Several weeks ago Netanyahu stated he had set a date for the invasion.

The Israeli ground invasion of Rafah has been on the horizon for many weeks now. While Israel has remained insistent that it is a necessity, many different nations, including many traditional Israeli allies, have condemned the prospect.

Rafah, which lies in the very south of Gaza, was previously established earlier in the war by Israel to be a safe zone. As such, it has become host to approximately 1.4 million people; over half of Gaza's population.

Additionally, Rafah is a key basing ground for humanitarian operations in Gaza. It is situated on the Egypt/Gaza border, and is the primary entry point for trucks entering Gaza. It is further host to a number of UNRWA camps. The UNRWA, as well as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, have stated an Israeli operation in Rafah would be the "nail in the coffin" for humanitarian operations in Gaza, which were already severely harmed.

Israel has stated that the operation is necessary in order to destroy Hamas' last remaining battalions. Netanyahu has claimed there are approximately four battalions left in Gaza, numbering thousands of militants. Furthermore, Israel believes many of the remaining approximately 130 hostages (of which, over 30 are believed to have died) are being held within Rafah.

The operation has been controversial due to the extremely high civilian presence within Gaza, as well as the effect an operation is sure to have upon humanitarian operations.  The US, among others, have claimed that the operation would be too costly in civilian lives.

The invasion also notably comes after Israel refused to send a delegation to ongoing hostage/ceasefire negotiations in Cairo, Egypt. Israel had initially refused to send a delegation until Hamas gave an answer concerning a temporary ceasefire proposal they had made.

A Hamas official reportedly stated that they were "close" to reaching a hostage deal, however the evacuation, and impending invasion, would cause hostage deal negotiations to cease.

It is unlikely that the two were close to securing a deal, however. Israel and Hamas have presented a series of absolutes in their negotiations, absolutes which the other side has determined unacceptable.

Most prominently, Hamas is seeking a permanent ceasefire, and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. Israel, on the other hand, is seeking only a temporary ceasefire, after which they will continue the war in order to "destroy Hamas."

Negotiations have been ongoing for many weeks, without any meaningful ground being made.


April 30th, 2024 - The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has delivered its ruling on provisional measures sought by Nicaragua against Germany, ruling not to instate any measures against them. Nicaragua sought a series of provisional measures against Germany for their support of Israel during the present conflict, including for Germany to cease all military aid to Israel, as well as reinstate funding to the UNRWA after they had cut it in January. The court stated that “the circumstances are not such as to require the exercise of its power ... to indicate provisional measures.” Although the court decided not to instate provisional measures, it has not thrown out the case as Germany had requested. The entire case, which alleges German complicity in a supposed genocide carried out by Israel, could take months or even years.

German Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius (Photo - POOL/VIA AFP-JIJI).

May 1st, 2024 - Thousands of Germans took to streets across the nation to protest a number of concerns, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, border security, and "social cuts," according to protestors. An estimated 20,000 people took to the streets of Berlin, Stuttgart, and Hamburg, many of them members of left-wing parties and various unions. While the protests in Berlin and Hamburg were largely peaceful, police deployed forced dispersion tactics against those gathered in Stuttgart after demonstrators attacked police with pepper spray, wood beams with fastened screws, and other improvised weapons. Ultimately, the entire demonstration in Stuttgart would be called off with police claiming that “participants were completely uncooperative," thus "the assembly was dissolved by the assembly authorities." Police successfully arrested 167 demonstrators, seizing a large amount of pyrotechnics, disguise material, fire extinguishers, and smoke bombs. Authorities have not released a total number of wounded demonstrators during the confrontation with police; however, the organizers stated that "95 people were injured as a result of police attacks."

May 3rd, 2024 - The German government, alongside the Czech Republic, the US Department of State, and NATO, has accused the Russian government of initiating cyberattacks against Germany's defense and aerospace firms alongside the ruling Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) party on Friday. NATO further claimed that entities in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia along with government bodies and "critical infrastructure operators," have also been targeted in attacks organized by Russia, while the Russian Embassy in Germany called the accusations "another unfriendly step aimed at inciting anti-Russian sentiments in Germany." German officials have summoned the Russian envoy to the country to protest the supposed two-year-long cyber campaign against the nation and its partners, which was allegedly launched by Russia's GRU intelligence agency. The group responsible is known as "Fancy Bear," an organization affiliated with the GRU. Despite these compromises, the FBI released a statement detailing the bureau's actions in preventing compromised accounts and devices from being used for cyberespionage.

Middle East

May 5th, 2024 - Israel has banned Al-Jazeera from operating within the country after accusing the news company of being a “threat to national security,” as well as a “mouthpiece of Hamas.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet voted unanimously to ban the network. Shortly following, Israeli police raided Al-Jazeera's offices in the country, and television providers took Al-Jazeera's broadcasts off the air. Tuning into Al-Jazeera's channel on Israeli broadcaster YES will only show a message that states "In accordance with the government decision, the Al Jazeera station's broadcasts have been stopped in Israel." Press freedom groups, as well as Al-Jazeera themselves, have condemned the ban.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo from REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Pool).

May 1st, 2024 - Hamas and Fatah, perhaps the two most prominent Palestinian factions, met in Beijing, China, at China's invitation to further reconciliation efforts. The meeting builds upon a wider push, both amongst Palestinian factions and outside players that offer support to the Palestinian cause, for unity between the various Palestinian factions. These calls for unity have grown monumentally louder since the beginning of the present Israel-Gaza war with Hamas' attack upon Israel on October 7th. After Israel's response proved incredibly deadly and destructive for the Palestinians of Gaza, many Palestinian factions have called for unity in order to take a joint approach to general negotiations, and achieving statehood. The meeting in China builds upon a previous meeting that was held in Russia at the end of February. This meeting produced a number of important things, however the most notable was by far the potential of the formation of a unity government of Hamas and Fatah. Hamas and Fatah have had a long history of rivalry. Fatah heads the Palestinian Authority (PA), which holds partial administrative control over Palestinian areas of the West Bank. Fatah, and thus the PA, are headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, who is also the chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Hamas heads the government in Gaza, where they have been in power since their election in Palestinian legislative elections in 2006. This election was for the Palestinian Legislative Council of the PA. Hamas won the election with a reported 44.45% of the vote, compared to Fatah's 41.43%. This vote technically put Hamas in power over the PA, as Ismail Haniyeh, the present leader of Hamas, became the Prime Minister and formed a new government. However, the vote was disputed by Fatah. The groups continually conflicted over the issue, before the conflict eventually turned violent. In the resulting conflict, Hamas pushed Fatah out of Gaza, and solidified its power over the Gaza strip in 2007. In turn, President Abbas dismissed Haniyeh's government in a move that was questionably legal, and Hamas was effectively removed from the West Bank.


May 1st, 2024 - The Rwandan government has stated that it has received its first migrant from the UK under one of now two different migration deals the east African nation has with the UK. The migrant that was sent from the UK to Rwanda is a part of a newer deal that the UK has signed with Rwanda. Notably, the migrant was not sent to Rwanda under the UK's illegal migrant deportation plan, but a different, voluntary plan. The deal signed with Rwanda builds upon an existing UK policy. In essence, those who had legally transited to the UK as either refugees or asylum seekers, but had their status of being a refugee or asylum seeker denied, were eligible for financial assistance from the UK in order to resettle in a third nation, or return to their home country. In the case of Rwanda, however, not only is the UK offering financial assistance in moving there, but also paying migrants to do so. Migrants who choose Rwanda to relocate to will receive up to 3,000 pounds (3757 USD) in order to help build themselves up with Rwanda. This differs distinctly from the UK's illegal migrant deportation plan in several ways. Namely, this plan is voluntary, and for migrants who had legally gone through the UK's asylum process but had their applications denied. The UK's illegal migrant deportation plan is for illegal migrants and illegal asylum seekers who had reached the UK in small boats, through illegal crossings via the English Channel.

A photo of Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda (Photo from Visit Rwanda Tourism).

May 1st, 2024 - The M23 rebels of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have occupied a strategic mining town in the east of the country, further expanding their already considerably large zone of control. The seizure of the town, named Rubaya, is the latest in a series of losses for the government of the DRC and their allies of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Besides having a strategic location, Rubaya also holds in and around it large deposits of coltan, a mineral important for making smartphones, laptops, and game consoles. Fighting had been taking place around the town for several days, before the M23 was finally able to take the town, according to the M23's military spokesman, Willy Ngoma. Notably, this is the third time that the M23 has taken control of Rubaya since they began their counter-offensive against the DRC and SADC in mid-January. In the previous instances, their occupation only lasted a few days. The coming days will show if this new occupation will be a longer term "liberation", as the M23 has put it, or just a brief occupation before the M23 are pushed out of the town.

The Americas

April 30th, 2024 - Argentina's Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the nation's Congress, approved a reform bill targeting the nation's economy in the country's latest attempt to revitalize the economy following the election of Libertarian economist Javier Milei to the presidential office. The bill addresses a number of issues, including the reinstitution of income tax for single workers, an increase in deductions for family housing expenses, more powers for the President regarding key sectors, alongside the privatization of nine companies which include oil and gas extraction companies, airlines, and a number of other essential services. The bill also introduced a number of key labor reforms with the intention of easing the burden on corporations operating in Argentina, allowing greater flexibility when it comes to contracting employees. The bill still needs to be approved by the Argentine Senate where many believe it will face fierce resistance as only 13 of the 72 senators are aligned with Milei’s Libertarians.

The Argentine Chamber of Deputies. (Photo - Reuters/Agustin Marcarian)

May 3rd, 2024 - The Colombian President, Gustavo Petro, stated that over 1.3 million rounds of ammunition had disappeared from military bases in the Cundinamarca and La Guajira provinces on Tuesday, claiming that the missing ammunition was due to corruption within the Colombian armed forces. However, according to the military report obtained by Reuters, the number of missing munitions is truly in the thousands. Petro originally stated on Tuesday that over 1.3 million rounds of 5.56, two Spike anti-tank missiles, and 37 Nimrod missiles, along with 550 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and thousands of grenades and mortar munitions, were declared missing from the bases. However, following an inspection of the military report by Reuters, the news outlet found that only 131,000 pieces of missing ammunition and under 6,000 explosive munitions were declared missing, with no reports of missing missiles surfacing. Two officials spoke to Reuters, stating that President Petro mistakenly read from a separate column of the report. General Helder Giraldo, who is the commander of the Colombian military, told reporters that a number of soldiers have already been removed from their posts in connection with the scandal.

May 1st, 2024 - The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has announced they will begin deliberation on a number of provisional measures against Ecuador regarding the ongoing court case between the nation and Mexico regarding the raid of the Mexican Embassy in Ecuador's capital of Quito in order to apprehend former Vice President Jorge Glas, who was granted asylum. The deliberation follows both Mexico's and Ecuador's statements to the court on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. In these statements, the Mexican representative to the ICJ maintained Mexico's claim that the embassy raid was in violation of international law and not only violated the rights of Mexico but of other sovereign states across the world. Ecuador rebuffed these claims, stating that the raid was in line with international law due to Glas’ prior convictions on corruption charges. Ecuadorian representatives stated that not only was it unlawful for Mexico to grant Glas asylum and an abuse of the Vienna Diplomatic Conventions, but by granting Glas asylum, Mexico had interfered with Ecuadorian internal affairs.

Asia and Oceania

April 30th, 2024 - Several China Coast Guard (CCG) and China Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels intercepted one Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship and one Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel during their patrol near Scarborough Shoal on Tuesday. The Philippine vessels’ mission was to distribute food and fuel to the Philippine fishermen operating in and around the shoal, however, as the vessels neared the shoal, at least four CCG ships and six CMM vessels began to harass the two Philippine vessels. Two CCG vessels blocked one vessel’s path when it was around 1000 yards (914 m) east-southeast of Scarborough Shoal. The Chinese vessels then began to spray the Bacagay with “jet stream water cannons” from both sides, which damaged the ship’s railing and canopy. However, the Bacagay successfully reached the mouth of Scarborough Shoal but could not enter the shoal due to CCG installing a 328-yard (380-meter) floating barrier across the shoal’s mouth before the incident. Another CCG vessel moved along side and began to spray the other vessel with its water cannons. The vessel also attempted to ram the BFAR’s hull, but two crewmembers placed yellow barriers that prevented any additional damage from occurring. The BFAR vessel received some damage to its HVAC, electric, navigation, and radio systems, as well as some “superficial damage” to its hull. One vessel successfully reached the mouth of Scarborough Shoal despite the CCG and CMM’s harassment of the vessel.

Crewmembers of the Datu Bankaw placing barriers against hull to prevent CCG vessel from damaging the vessle (Photo: Screenshot/Gio Robles, @News5PH)

April 29th, 2024 - The Chin Brotherhood Alliance Forces, with members of the Arakan Army (AA), captured the Cindwe sub-township in Kanpetlet township, located in southern Chin state within Myanmar, on Monday. The attack began four months ago, when members of the Chin Brotherhood Alliance, the AA, the People Defense Force (PDF), and additional PDF members from Yaw and Gangwa, attacked junta positions. During the offensive, the junta reportedly launched 319 air strikes, having little effect on dislodging the resistance groups. The junta was said to have suffered losses in the hundreds, with resistance groups also experiencing casualties.

May 1st, 2024 - The Shan State Army-North (SSPP-N), an armed group in Myanmar, stated on Friday that any discussions with the junta are "useless," and the only way to reach federal democracy is through armed conflict. Should the SSPP enter the conflict, it could potentially bring in more alliances, such as the United Wa States Army (UWSA). Another possibility is potentially opening a new front in the war, impacting the balance of Southern Shan State. The SSPP/SSA is opposed to the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and its armed wing, the SSPP-South, over territory amid other issues. Despite having a ceasefire, conflict between the two groups still remains.

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