The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 64

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, May 13th, 2024

Good morning everyone,

Were you at the international SOF Week this week in Florida? We were! It’s astonishing to see the future of special operations and gray-zone warfighting from hundreds of units, businesses, and organizations in the defense industry. The major takeaway is definitely regarding the liberal use of AI in both the design and application processes of a lot of these tools and weapons. Something to keep an eye on for the future. For now, let’s jump right in.

In Europe, Russia replaces their Minister of Defense, thousands take to the streets of Georgia’s capital to protest, and the Spanish Socialist party successfully wins a majority in the Catalonia elections.

Over in the Middle East, Israel seizes the Rafah crossing and Gaza’s healthcare system faces a total collapse.

Meanwhile, in Africa, South Africa calls on the ICJ to halt Israel’s Rafah offensive and clashes in Sudan prove deadly for civilians.

In the Americas, four Colombian soldiers are killed in combat with the FARC-EMC, four hostages are released by the FARC-EMC, and severe flooding continues in Brazil.

In Asia and Oceania, China’s economic situation fluctuates, India grapples with corruption, and an incident occurs between the Chinese and Australian militaries.

It’s shaping up to be just another day at the office. Let's take a look:

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

Kuwaiti Emir Disbands Parliament

Kuwait Parliament in Session in Kuwait City, Kuwait. (Photo - Reuters)

May 11th, 2024: (2 Minute Read) Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Mishaal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, announced the dissolution of Parliament and certain constitutional articles in a televised speech on Friday to the entire nation.

The Emir suspended some articles of the country’s constitution for four years, and announced all aspects of the current democratic process will be “studied.” Local state TV reported that the power of the National Assembly will be managed by the Emir and the nation’s cabinet.

Additionally, the Emir added: “Kuwait has been through some hard times lately, which leaves no room for hesitation or delay in making the difficult decision to save the country and secure its highest interests.”

The Emir issued further statements, pointing out corruption within the leadership of Kuwait, stating that “no one is above the Kingdom’s Law,” how Kuwait must make a “difficult decision to save the country,” and how the nation must “face unbearable difficulties and obstacles.”

Kuwait dissolved its parliament in February of this year in a similar fashion after tension between the newly created government and members of parliament, which created a political stalemate in the country.

The announcement was made after a boycott of a parliamentary session by ministers, who gave a speech by MP Abdul Karim Al Kandari. The speech mentioned criticism of parliament and the Emir’s cabinet, made by Emir Sheikh Mishaal al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

Cabinet members believed the speech was targeted toward the Emir, who previously demanded changes from the country’s executive and legislative branches during his inaugural speech after assuming the role in December 2023.

Political stalemates and deadlocks prevented the nation from introducing reforms to the Kuwaiti economy, which also suffered from low foreign investment and budget deficits, causing frustration among the general public. The Emir warned there is “no room” for resolving political scores between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Kuwait’s parliament has been dissolved over 24 times since 2006. The cause of this February 2024 dissolution was reportedly “more personalized” compared to past incidences, based on reports from Kuwaiti analysts. 


May 12th, 2024  - Russian state media reported that Putin has proposed Andrei Belousov, the former Russian Deputy Prime Minister, as a potential replacement for Sergei Shoigu as the Russian Minister of Defence, who has seemingly been removed from the position. Shoigu is reportedly to replace Nikolai Patrushev as the Secretary of the National Security Council, a notable demotion within Russian politics. The exact circumstances of Shoigu’s demotion are unclear; however, Shoigu has repeatedly been accused of incompetence by a number of critics, including former Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin, who headed a 'rebellion’ last year seeking Shoigu’s replacement.

A photo of former Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu (Photo from Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP/File).

May 12th, 2024 - An estimated 50,000 protestors took to the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, to protest the proposed "foreign agents" bill, which would force organizations that receive over 20% of their funding from foreign organizations to register as "agents of foreign influence." The bill has led to widespread criticism within Georgia, as many believe it to be proposed in an effort to prevent the country from joining the European Union and further Russia’s influence in the country, with some going so far as to label it “the Russian law.” The EU voiced concerns regarding the bill, stating that such a bill would significantly hamper Georgia’s joining the EU, while the United States claimed the bill signified “democratic backsliding” in the country. "We never wanted to be part of Russia. And it has always been and always will be our goal to be part of Europe," one protestor told Reuters.

May 12th, 2024 - The Spanish Socialist Worker's Party successfully won the majority of votes in the nation’s Catalonia election, winning 42 of the 135 seats in the autonomous zone’s parliament. The election is thought to have successfully secured the region from potential succession, as no secessionist party holds enough seats in parliament to form a coalition government. Such a coalition is improbable due to the opposition parties’ vast ideological differences in regards to stances outside of Catalonian independence. Some have theorized that the Socialist Party’s victory was connected to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s controversial pardoning of a number of separatists who attempted to secede from Spain in 2017, which led to widespread protests in November.

Middle East

May 7th, 2024 - After claiming Hamas was exploiting the crossing, Israel launched an operation in order to seize the Rafah crossing in eastern Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. The crossing is on the Egyptian border and was the primary entry point for aid into Gaza. The seizure closed the crossing, effectively severing aid to Gaza and solidifying Israeli control over every single entry and exit point in Gaza. Egypt, the UN, and several other nations condemned the operation. Egypt has reportedly refused to cooperate with Israeli forces on any aid deliveries through the crossing, after referring to the operation as “an unacceptable Israeli escalation.” Israel has launched ground operations concentrated on the eastern side of Rafah and bombardments all throughout the city. Prior to Israel’s operations beginning a week ago, Rafah had been home to approximately 1.4 million people. Earlier in the war, it was established by Israel to be a ‘safe zone’, and thus has fared comparatively better than the rest of Gaza, although hunger and medical issues were still rife. Now, with operations beginning, approximately 300,000 people have fled the city, with tens of thousands more leaving each day. About 15 hours prior to beginning bombardments, Israel released an evacuation map for civilians in eastern Rafah to evacuate to areas further north; however, these newly established ‘safe zones’ have previously been subject to operations, making them unideal areas for people to evacuate to. With the cut, or rather massive restriction, of aid, southern Gaza is expected to enter the famine-like conditions that have been reported in the north for weeks.

A photo of a highly damaged hall in the Islamic University of Gaza (Photo from Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters).

May 13th, 2024 - The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza released a statement claiming that the healthcare system within Gaza is only “hours away” from a complete collapse due to a supreme lack of fuel needed to run the generators the hospitals are running on. “We are only a few hours away from the collapse of the health system in the Gaza Strip as a result of the failure to bring in the fuel needed to operate electricity generators in hospitals, ambulances, and transport employees,” reads the statement. The collapse comes just a few days after Israel seized the Rafah border crossing. The same day Israel seized the crossing, yet another of Gaza’s hospitals, the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital, shut down as patients and staff were forced to evacuate due to Israeli operations beginning in Rafah. The shutdown of al-Najjar left just 11 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals partially functioning, with none fully functioning. The severance of aid appears to be about to diminish that number even further.


May 10th, 2024 - The government of South Africa filed an "urgent request" with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) requesting a series of provisional measures to be instated against Israel by the court. The request was filed as Israel was gearing up for its assault on Rafah. The provisional measures sought build upon South Africa's wider case against Israel, which accuses them of carrying out genocide in Gaza. South Africa requested three different measures. Firstly, they requested a full Israeli withdrawal from Rafah and for them to halt their military offensive upon the city. Secondly, they requested that Israel “immediately take all effective measures” to allow humanitarian access for the UN and other aid organizations operating in Gaza. Thirdly, they requested the court order Israel to submit a report on their adherence to the new set of provisional measures a week after the order is given and to submit a report on Israel’s adherence to previous provisional measures instated in January and March one month after the order is given. Given the urgency of the matter, South Africa requested that the court give a decision on the measures within a week, by May 17th; however, there is no guarantee they will do so. On the same day, Libya announced its legal intervention in the case on behalf of South Africa. Libya’s intervention comes just five days after Colombia, one of the most vocal critics of Israel’s conduct during the war thus far, also announced their intervention. The full extent to which Libya and Colombia intend to participate in the case remains to be seen.

A photo of South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa (Photo from Leon Neal/Getty Images).

May 12th, 2024 - Recent clashes in the North Darfur city of El Fasher have left at least 27 civilians dead and 130 injured as aerial bombardments and artillery continually hit the city. Fighting and aerial bombardments displaced civilians around the city, overloading hospitals that are dangerously low on supplies. Humanitarian access to El Fasher is very minimal. Many within the city go without aid, largely due to a supreme lack of supplies for humanitarian aid groups, such as the UN. Several different nations and humanitarian groups have condemned the fighting in El Fasher. The city hosts several hundred thousand people who have been displaced from other areas of the country and is a key base for the UN’s operations in the area. The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces have been working to surround the city and launch an attack upon it for several weeks. Clashes in and around the city, which is the last in Darfur still held by the Sudanese Armed Forces, have been very heavy and have already displaced tens of thousands more civilians.

The Americas

May 5th, 2024 - Four Colombian soldiers were killed in action while undergoing an operation against a splinter group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC), while the bodies of the fallen were recovered on Sunday. The firefight occurred in Argelia, a small town in Colombia's south-western Cauca Department, a region known for the FARC's large presence. After capturing eight members of the Carlos Patino front of the FARC-EMC, authorities were awaiting extraction with the captured FARC members. However, the extraction was delayed due to bad weather, which allowed an estimated 200 members of the FARC to converge on the 78 soldiers, beginning the firefight that would take the lives of four servicemen. Authorities were outnumbered and attacked from all sides, resulting in the deaths of three soldiers and the wounding of another, who later passed away from his wounds. In an effort to survive, the commanding officer of those attacked ordered soldiers to hide the bodies of those killed in order to preserve their bodies for future extraction. While the military claims that the bodies were hidden for future extraction, the FARC stated on X that soldiers on the ground "abandoned" the bodies of their comrades before further stating that "they (the bodies) were not desecrated; they were guarded."

The funeral procession for those who died in the attack. (Photo - Ejército Nacional)

May 12th, 2024 - Four hostages, two of whom belong to Colombia's Prosecutor's Office, were released by the FARC-EMC on Sunday, following a previous stall in talks regarding the hostage's release. Three of the four had been held by the FARC-EMC since late April, and were captured while the trio were en route to the municipality of Popayan in Cacua when they were ambushed and taken captive in a rural area known as Dominguillo just outside of Santander de Quilichao, another municipality. Two of these three were prosecutors, Gerson and Bethy Amanda, who were captured alongside a "companion" and possible family member, María Yeni Ruiz. The fourth hostage was identified by the FARC alongside the Colombian Army as a professional soldier by the name of Yiner Kevin Noscue Largo. The FARC previously stated that operations conducted by the Colombian military in order to free the hostages and damage the FARC-EMC in the region had endangered the lives of the hostages, reiterating this claim in their newest statement, which claimed "they (the hostages) had to endure the difficulties that come with breaking the ceasefire and declaring "total war" against our organization." The hostages were released to the Colombian Red Cross and later transported to proper authorities, while their release was confirmed by President Gustavo Petro on X.

May 12th, 2024 - Heavy flooding has left at least 143 people dead and 125 missing as of Sunday in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. On Saturday, the Brazilian government approved disaster aid relief for those effected by the flooding, sending 12.1 billion reais ($2.34 billion) to the southern state. The flooding reportedly began in late April and is believed to continue its course throughout May as future showers are expected. Analysts and scientists have theorized that the flooding is due to El Nino, a naturally occurring climate pattern that typically results in heavier rain in the south of South America while leading to widespread droughts in the north. This phenomenon has also been considered responsible for the drying up of Colombia’s capital’s reservoir, which is now only 16% full and has led to the city rationing water.

Asia and Oceania

May 11th, 2024 - The Shanghai Composite saw an increase of approximately 0.2 percent to 3,162 points in the first few hours of trading. Furthermore, the rise also represented an overall increase of 20 percent from the index’s lowest point in mid-January, after the index collapsed. The rise came amid reports that the Chinese government may waive income tax on dividends for Chinese citizens who invest in Hong Kong stocks via Stock Connect. Hong Kong’s government submitted a proposal to waive the 20 percent tax on dividends bought via the Stock Connect link that connects Hong Kong to Shanghai and Shenzhen. Several analysts say that the increases brought on by the news indicate that the market has entered or is on track to enter a ‘technical bull market.’ The Hang Seng Index also saw a significant increase during trading hours, with the stock market reaching 19,002 points. However, the market declined between 39 and 83 points during afternoon trading hours, with the market closing up 2.3 percent to 18,963 points, the highest level since August 2023. The rise is due to the income tax waiver proposal, and several second-tier cities, such as Hangzhou, Hefei, and Xi'an, have waived resident property purchasing curbs and will hand out subsidies for home purchases.

Shanghai Composite Index performance chart May 10, 2024 (Photo - Trading Economics)

Hang Seng performance chart for May 10, 2024 (Photo - Trading Economics)

May 10th, 2024 - India’s Supreme Court granted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal interim bail approximately one month after his arrest on corruption charges. The court said the bail will be applicable until June 1st, after which Kajriwal will surrender to local law enforcement again. The judge said he can campaign for the ongoing elections but is not allowed to perform official duties during his time. The agency that handles financial crimes in India, the Enforcement Directorate, “strongly opposed” the minister’s attempts at receiving bail.

May 9th, 2024 - On May 6th , the Australian Defence Ministry (ADM) released a statement about an interaction that occurred between the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) helicopter and a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft. The incident occurred on May 4th, when a PLAAF jet aircraft intercepted and released flares approximately 984 feet (300 meters) in front of the MH-60R as the jet was 197 feet (60 meters) higher. The MH-60R was launched from the HMAS Hobart, the lead vessel of the Hobart-class air warfare destroyer. Both the HMAS Hobart and the MH-60R were sailing in international waters in the Yellow Sea, conducting activities related to Operation Argos, “Australia’s contribution to the international effort to enforce United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea.” The “unsafe manoeuvre” resulted in no injuries or damage to the crew or helicopter, but it still posed a risk to the aircraft and personnel involved. The statement ended by pointing out that “Australia expects all countries, including China, to operate their militaries in a professional and safe manner.” On May 9th , the British Royal Air Force Chief of Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton, urged Australian military officials to release any images or videos they have of incidents between the country and China. The goal of the releases, said Knighton, would be to show the international community China’s aggressive actions in the region. Furthermore, Knighton said that the releases would also allow Australia to more effectively push back against the disinformation China publishes about the incident.

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