The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 66

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, May 27th, 2024

Good morning everyone,

Let’s jump right in today.

In Europe, tens of thousands protest in Armenia, the AfD faces more trouble in Germany, and the UK sets a date for its election.

Over in the Middle East, the ICJ delivers a ruling on South Africa’s request for provisional measures against Israel and the IDF allows Israeli settlers to return to several West Bank settlements.

Meanwhile, in Africa, Kenya’s deployment to Haiti is delayed again and Sudan announces a potential Russian military installment.

In the Americas, fighting continues between Colombia and FARC, the ICC makes a ruling between Mexico and Ecuador, and the Vatican finishes an investigation into Canadian priests.

In Asia and Oceania, a former CIA officer is caught working with China, Thailand sees political shifts, and a Philippines Coast Guard base is built near Taiwan.

It looks like it’s just another day at the office. Let's see what’s up:

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

The War in Sudan Continues; Tens of Thousands Flee El-Fasher as Hunger Rises

A photo of soldiers of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces pictured in 2019. (Photo - AP)

May 25th, 2024: (3 Minute Read) Tens of thousands of people are reported to be fleeing areas of El-Fasher, in Sudan, as civilian casualties continue to mount. Various humanitarian organizations are warning of a humanitarian disaster if attacks continue, with the already dire situation growing steadily worse each day.

The city of El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, has witnessed attacks by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) since early April. What began as small clashes has turned into much more, as the RSF pushes deeper into the city.

El-Fasher is particularly important, as it is the last city in Darfur that is still controlled by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), the military government. Furthermore, the city contains a high population of internally displaced persons (IDPs), numbering several hundred thousand.

Now, many of these people have once again been displaced amidst the RSF’s assault upon El-Fasher.

Continual and indiscriminate bombings in the city carried out by both sides have caused extensive civilian casualties and closed all but one of the city’s hospitals. According to the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), at least 85 people who have died have been brought to the South El-Fasher hospital. There are likely more dead that have not been brought to the hospital. As is with the remainder of the war in Sudan, an accurate total casualty count is difficult to reach, in large part due to the chaos of the situation and a lack of information gathering services.

Fresh clashes on May 25th killed another 22 civilians killed, with an additional 110 injured, according to Ibrahim Abdallah Khater, the General Director of Health in North Darfur State. The extensive casualties are overwhelming the South El-Fasher hospital, who is running low on supplies.

Amidst the combat, both sides have been accused of war crimes. Notably, the RSF has been accused of once again carrying out ethnic-based killings. Throughout the present war, as well as in previous conflicts, the RSF has continually been accused of carrying out attacks which target ethnic minorities, and non-Arabs in the area. The RSF, along with the Janjaweed militia, are one of the main participants in the Darfur genocide.

Since before the RSF’s assault began up until now several different humanitarian organizations have been raising the alarm over the situation in El-Fasher, which has been far worsened since the RSF’s assault began.

As mentioned, El-Fasher has become host to a population of several hundred thousand IDPs. Many of these people have gone, in essence, entirely without aid for lengthy periods of time. Thus far in 2024, only 39 aid trucks have entered El-Fasher.

While one of the main reasons behind this is the insecurity throughout the country, and combat making transit difficult, organizations such as the UN have reported a series of bureaucratic impediments as one of the greatest restrictions regarding aid delivery. As things stand, there remains a significant amount of aid, particularly life-saving medicine, in the city of Port Sudan. Port Sudan is controlled by the government. The UN has made repeat calls for many of these bureaucratic impediments to be removed. The Sudanese government has made little effort to address this matter.

With the absence of aid, many of these organizations warn that a humanitarian disaster is around the corner in the city. The high population of civilians who are already suffering from acute hunger is steadily coming further under threat as they are pushed into smaller areas within El-Fasher, or forced to flee entirely to an uncertain destination.

The story of El-Fasher is just one of many in Sudan, where over 18 million people suffer from hunger, and over nine million people being internally displaced. The vast majority of those internally displaced have been displaced from the present war. An additional two million have fled Sudan entirely, mostly residing in neighboring countries.

Beyond the humanitarian situation, several organizations are also worried that a seizure of El-Fasher by the RSF would permit them to continue genocidal practices on the city’s population. This is a fear among many civilians as well.


May 26th, 2024 - Thousands of protestors took to the streets of Armenia’s capital on Sunday to protest against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan after the national leader chose to give up a number of Armenian villages to Azerbaijan. Protestors demanded the prime minister’s resignation and were led by a high-ranking member of the Armenian Apostolic Church by the name of Bagrat Galstanyan, who is the archbishop of the Tavush diocese located in northeastern Armenia. The handover comes several months after Azerbaijan launched a lightning offensive against the self-declared Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), a breakaway region that had been populated by Armenians, but recognized as a part of Azerbaijan. The offensive led to the capitulation of Artsakh, and the exodus of virtually all of Artsakh’s 120,000 Armenians. The handover is a part of the border demarcation process, one of the last steps in creating a peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Tens of thousands marched against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Armenia on Sunday. (Photo - Stepan Poghosyan / AP)

May 23rd, 2024 - The German political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) was expelled on Thursday from Identity and Democracy (ID), a right-wing nationalist coalition in the European Parliament, following remarks from the party's leading candidate for the European Union elections in early June regarding the Schutzstaffel (SS). The expulsion followed an interview with Maximilian Krah, a former MEP for the AfD and leading candidate in the upcoming EU elections, by an Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, in which the politician stated that the Waffen SS were "not all criminals," citing the life of Gunter Grass, an author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature who revealed in an autobiography that he was a member of the SS. Krah further claimed that many of those serving with the SS were "peasants," before stating that the politician "would never say that anyone who wore an SS uniform was automatically a criminal." “The AfD is going from one provocation to the next,” Marine Le Pen, a French politician and founder of ID who confirmed the coalition’s parting with the AfD following the statements, stated before claiming that the party is “clearly controlled by radical groups.”

May 22nd, 2024 - British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the UK’s general election has been set for July 4th. PM Sunak announced that he had requested to King Charles that parliament be dissolved, a request that was granted. This gives the UK’s politicians a short time to campaign for election, however many say that the election is already decided. The main opposition, the Labour Party, are up an average of 20 points over PM Sunak’s Conservative Party, making a Labour win highly likely in the upcoming election. In an attempt to reinforce his side, PM Sunak announced the election while also announcing a fall in inflation rates, although he also admitted that he “cannot and will not claim that we have got everything right.”

Middle East

May 22nd, 2024 - Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Israel Katz, announced the decision to recall Israel’s ambassadors to Norway, Ireland, and Spain following statements from all three nations that they would be officially recognizing a Palestinian state. The recognition, technically not official until May 28th, was referred to by Katz as a “reward” for “Hamas and Iran,” and only serving to “send a message to the Palestinians and the world: Terrorism pays.” The minister further claimed that the recognition would harm ongoing hostage negotiation efforts. The intention for the recognition of a Palestinian state was announced by the three nations first in March. Originally, Norway, Ireland, and Spain had announced their intention to do so alongside Malta and Slovenia. It is likely that Malta and Slovenia will soon follow suit, particularly with Slovenia having already begun procedures to carry out such a move. Slovenia is expected to recognize Palestine by mid-June.

A photo of Ireland's 'Taoiseach' (Prime Minister), Simon Harris (Photo - PA).

May 24th, 2024 - The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on the recent provisional measures requested by South Africa to be instated against Israel. Although the court once again did not order a halt to the war, they notably did order Israel to halt its offensive against Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Rafah, which lies on Gaza’s border with Egypt, was previously established by Israel to be a safe zone. However, in recent weeks Israel has ordered evacuations of several regions of Rafah, and began an offensive into the city. The offensive has significantly harmed humanitarian efforts in Gaza, and already produced extensive civilian casualties due to Rafah’s high civilian population. Despite the order, Israel has maintained its attacks against Rafah. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has repeatedly stated that no international decisions will halt the war, in essence stating that Israel will defy any such court decisions to halt or restrict their war effort. As a UN court, member states of the UN are technically bound by the ICJ’s decisions. However, the ICJ has no means of enforcement, and many of its previous decisions have been ignored by various nations.

May 22nd, 2024 - The IDF has cleared the return of Israeli settlers to three Israeli West Bank settlements following the amendment of Israel’s 2005 Disengagement Law by Israeli Minister of Defence, Yoav Gallant. The amendment allows settlers to once again hold land titles for land in four different West Bank settlements, one of which had already been cleared by the IDF for the return of Israeli’s. The four settlements had originally been abandoned by Israeli settlers in 2005 as a part of Israel’s ‘disengagement’ from Gaza and areas of the West Bank. One of the settlements, Homesh, maintained a notable settler population after the official withdrawal, with settlers constructing a number of illegal buildings within the settlement. Return to Homesh was permitted last year by the IDF due to its proximity to existing Israeli military installations, however the other three settlements were still declared unsafe due to their further distance from any such military installations. The allowance of return, paired with the amendment to allow the holding of land titles, clears the path for the further expansion of settlements in the West Bank, settlements which many nations claim to be illegal.


May 20th - 23rd, 2024 - The very first delegation of Kenyan police personnel arrived in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, on May 20th. The delegation arrived ahead of what was planned to be the first large deployment of several hundred Kenyan police officers from May 23rd to 26th as a part of the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission to Haiti. The delegation was supposed to finalize preparations for the receival and operation of this force, however the deployment of the force has been delayed, apparently at the recommendation of the delegation. The findings of the delegation, who have now left Haiti, found that the facilities which will be hosting the MSS forces are still under construction, and that the force is still lacking a number of crucial resources, including armoured vehicles, helicopters, and communications equipment. Kenyan President William Ruto has announced that the deployment will take place in three weeks. This delay is the latest in a long series of delays, mostly born out of legal challenges to the deployment from within Kenya. President Ruto had initially announced Kenya’s intention to head the intervention force, sent to combat Haiti’s rampant gangs, in July. The deployment was approved by the UN Security Council in October, but has been delayed up until now. Besides Kenya, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Barbados, the Bahamas, Benin, and Chad have additionally pledged their own police officers, although it is unclear when exactly they will be joining their Kenyan counterparts. Notably, the deployment was supposed to coincide with President Ruto’s state visit to the White House, celebrating 60 years of relations between Kenya and the US. The US is the primary backer of the mission, alongside the UN.

A photo of supplies from the US arriving at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on May 15th. The airport has been closed to commercial flights since it was attacked by gangs in early March (Photo - Jose A. Iglesias/Miami Herald/TNS).

May 26th, 2024 - Sudanese military government officials have announced that the nation is signing a series of military and economic agreements with Russia, including one which permits the establishment of a Russian ‘logistical support center’ on Sudan’s coast. The support center is reportedly to be established in exchange for “urgent weapons and ammunition supplies,” according to Sudanese Lieutenant General Yasser al-Atta. Sudan’s growing relationship with Russia is likely an attempt for them to gain an edge over the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), who they have been at war with for over a year. Since the war’s beginning, the RSF has steadily been gaining ground, forcing the military government into an increasingly more disadvantageous position. The growing official relationship follows continuous reports that Russian Wagner mercenaries have been operating in the country, in support of the government.

The Americas

May 20th, 2024 - A splinter group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia known as the Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC) launched a large-scale attack on government forces across Cauca Department, leading to the deaths of a number of government authorities. The armed group first utilized an explosive device attached to a motorcycle in the early hours of the morning, which was detonated next to a hotel that housed newly arrived police officers who were sent to reinforce the region in Jamundi. These attacks reportedly began 24 hours after the issuance of a statement by the Jaime Martinez front of the FARC-EMC, wherein the front offered cash rewards for the targeting of authorities in Jamundi, according to authorities. The FARC-EMC further reportedly robbed a bank in Morales, Cauca, stealing an estimated 50 million pesos. Vicky Davila, the director of Colombian news outlet Semana, posted an alleged conversation with a non-commissioned officer of the Colombian military in which the soldier stated that his unit needed further support before stating that they were cut off from ground support. The attack follows the suspension of a ceasefire between the Colombian government and the FARC-EMC and subsequent skirmishes, which have left a number of soldiers and police dead.

The damage from the FARC-EMC's relentless attack against authorities in Colombia. (Photo - Vicky Davila/Semana)

May 23rd, 2024 - The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on Thursday that the court would not implement provisional measures against Ecuador following a request by the Mexican government. The Court found unanimously that the current situation between Ecuador and Mexico did not warrant provisional measures, with the Court noting their reliance on Ecuador's "assurances," which the Court believes to be legally binding. These "assurances" are likely a nod to Ecuador's opening representative, who claimed the court case was "unnecessary and unjustified” due to Ecuador’s formal promise to Mexico to protect and safeguard the Embassy alongside all documents while also allowing Mexico to clear the premises of the embassy alongside private residences belonging to embassy staff. The ruling comes after both nations brought forth their arguments to the court. The ruling on no provisional measures is a solid defeat for Mexico in their case against Ecuador, with the former requesting a laundry list of provisional measures against Ecuador, including suspending the nation's membership in the United Nations. While the lack of provisional measures is a victory for Ecuador, cases put forth to the International Court take years to conclude, meaning that Mexico may have further opportunities to act against Ecuador and could succeed in the final ruling of the case.

May 21st, 2024 - An internal investigation by the Vatican concluded that there was "no evidence" that a Canadian Cardinal sexually abused a minor on Tuesday, noting that the religious organization would take “no further canonical procedure” regarding the case. The accusation originates in a class action law suit against 88 Catholic priests, with Cardinal and Archbishop of Quebec Gerald Lacroix, the archbishop of Quebec and a member of the Council of Cardinals, which advises His Holiness Pope Francis, having been accused of abusing a 17-year-old girl between the years of 1978 and 1979. Following the accusation, the Vatican launched an investigation by employing a former judge by the name of André Denis. Despite the Vatican concluding the investigation, Denis stated that his investigation remains incomplete, largely due to the victim refusing to cooperate with the retired judge. Despite this refusal, Denis stood by his investigation, which defended Lacroix. The retired judge stated that the information gathered cast doubt on the claim on the claim that Lacroix abused the young woman. "The elements gathered during the investigation make it implausible that the events associated with the cardinal occurred,” Denis told the press.

Asia and Oceania

May 24th, 2024 - A former CIA officer plead guilty to “conspiring to gather and deliver national defense information” to China. Alexander Yuk Ching Ma and a blood relative met with intelligence officers from the Shanghai State Security Bureau (SSSB) in Hong Kong in March 2001. During a three-day period, both individuals provided the officers “with a large volume of classified U.S. national defense information.” The officers paid Ma’s relative $50,000 USD in cash, and both agreed to continue to help the SSSB. The FBI began an investigation into Ma by hiring him as a contract linguist with the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office to monitor his activities. In February 2006, Ma convinced the relative to provide the identities of two individuals in photographs provided by the SSSB officers. Ma knew that the individuals’ identities “were and remain classified as U.S. national defense information.” He also knew that the information would be used to harm the United States or to benefit China, but he “deliberately engaged in the criminal conspiracy” with his relative and the SSSB anyway.

Former CIA officer Alexander Yuk Ching Ma via his LinkedIn profile photo.

May 26th, 2024 - An opinion survey by King Prajadhipok’s Institute shows that most Thais still favor the Move Forward Party to lead the government. The survey also showed that most Thais want the party’s former leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, to become the Prime Minister (PM). The institute’s Office of Innovation completed the nationwide survey from May 7th to May 18th. The survey was sent out to 1,020 people aged at least 18 and above. One of the survey’s questions asked the individuals which party they would vote for if they were going to a polling station in a few days. Around 36 percent of the respondents said they would vote for the Move Forward Party, with the Pheu Thai Party coming in second at 18 percent. At least 45 percent of respondents also said they would vote for Move Forward when asked which party they would vote for in a party-list election. Around 47 percent of individuals also responded that they would vote for Pita as the new PM if they could vote now. Former PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha received at least 18 percent.

May 24th, 2024 - The Philippine Coast Guard has opened a monitoring base on Itbayat Island, the Philippines’s northernmost inhabited island, according to the Philippines National Security Advisor Eduardo Ano. The Coast Guard base is only 93 miles (150 kilometers) away from the Taiwanese mainland. This announcement comes as the armed forces of China engaged in military drills surrounding Taiwan. The drills, titled “Joint Sword-2024A” effectively surrounded Taiwan on May 23 and 24, according to Taiwan News. This drill comes soon after the May 20 inauguration of Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te. 

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