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Conflict Monitoring Report: March 2024

Updated: Apr 3

Written by Elena De Mitri, Arianna Lucà, Mickey Beckmann, Iris de Boer, Jacob Dickinson, Kevin

Heller, Sara Frisan


 

  • Russia-Ukraine: While Russian forces slowly advance towards Kharkiv, airstrikes debilitate the energy infrastructure on both sides of the conflict. 

  • Israel-Hamas: As Netanyahu's government faces internal tensions, Israel claims to be in the process of neutralizing Hamas’ infrastructure. 

  • Myanmar: Myanmar’s military continues to lose control over the country, with mass displacement of civilians.

  • Sudan: As the conflict has no end in sight, the humanitarian crisis in Sudan is worsening.

  • China-Philippines: Dangerous collisions between Philippine and Chinese vessels ramp up tensions. 

  • Mexico: Ahead of the June elections, growing discontent with the outgoing President is spurring widespread protests across the country. 

  • Nigeria: Worsening cost of living, rising inflation, and widespread food insecurity are fuelling violence, protests and instability in Nigeria. 

  • Pakistan-Afghanistan: Heightened tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan as cross-border attacks increase.

  • Haiti: The protracted crisis in Haiti reached a critical point in March 2024 after an upsurge in gang violence forced Prime Minister Henry to resign.

  • North Korea: North Korea’s Missile tests and South Korea-US military exercises persist on both sides of the demilitarized zone. 

World map with conflicts, alerts and updates March 2024


Conflicts, March 2024 


Russia-Ukraine

After capturing Avdiivka in February, Russian forces managed to gain some small advances while Ukrainian forces focused on slowing their progress as much as possible. While movement on this front is quite slow, Russian troops are also trying to advance towards the village of Kupyansk, likely as a first step in conquering the Kharkiv Oblast. Meanwhile, airstrikes targeted main cities both in eastern and western Ukraine, such as Odesa, Kyiv, and Kharkiv, causing many casualties among civilians. 


In March, both Ukraine and Russia ramped up attacks on each other's energy infrastructure to hamper each other's war efforts. While previous Ukrainian attacks were focused on Russian oil refineries close to the border with Ukraine, in mid and late March 2024, Ukrainian drones managed to hit areas deep within Russian territory, such as the Samara Oblast close to the border with Kazakhstan. These attacks destabilized the Russian oil industry, the country's biggest export. Russian retaliation hit Ukraine with the most significant attack since the start of the war on the energy infrastructure all around the country. The attack managed to cut off energy supplies for more than one million civilians and forced the implementation of blackout schedules in several regions to reduce the load on the power system during the needed repairs. According to the head of the main energy firms in the country, repairs might take up to 18 months.  


On March 12, 2024, a coalition of three Ukrainian-backed paramilitary groups launched an incursion in the Russian regions of Kursk and Belgorod. The groups, consisting of Russian nationals opposed to Putin's regime, claimed to be still operating in Russia on March 21. While the three brigades will likely not have a big impact on Russia's stability and on Putin's regime, they managed to bring some troops back to restore Russian control over the territories they took. 


Israel-Hamas  

The war between Israel and Hamas is ongoing and is likely to continue for another few months if not more than a year. Israel claims it is close to breaking Hamas's infrastructure and neutralizing its leadership and terrorist capabilities. However, to do so, Israel could also attack the border town of Rafah in southern Gaza. Rafah has been the refuge for millions of Gazans after Israeli attacks on Gaza City, Khan Yunis, and Shifa Hospital. According to the U.N. and several NGOs, the Gazan population is almost 100% on the brink of starving and running out of medical care and medicines. Aid deliveries are ongoing but are inadequate and limited. Meanwhile, tensions between Hezbollah and Israel are growing, and there will likely be a military operation in the spring or early summer to remove Hezbollah's presence from the south of Lebanon to make sure that Israeli citizens can return safely to their homes in the north of Israel. Pressure from the U.N., U.S., and E.U. on Israel does not seem to have much effect. However, internal struggles in the Netanyahu government could collapse the coalition and make way for new elections. 


Following the Israeli bombing of the Iranian Consulate in Damascus on April 1, tensions between Iran and Israel are heightened. In response to the attack, which killed 7 people, including a top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran declared that it will retaliate and there will be consequences for Israel. Adding to the trouble in the region are the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are continuing to launch attacks against international merchant vessels. Although the U.S. and U.K. are responding promptly against Houthi strongholds, the Houthis do not seem to intend to cease their attacks. In late March, the Houthi managed to launch a missile at Israel that evaded all air defense systems but landed harmlessly in the desert. 


Myanmar 

Myanmar’s military government continues to lose territory along multiple fronts as alliances of ethnic minority insurgents and pro-democracy fighters challenge military rule in March. The advance of armed groups has pushed the military back considerably, with the military controlling only half of the country. Following these setbacks, the military government began a mass conscription campaign to build up its forces. Millions of civilians have fled to neighboring countries to escape enlistment. The UN has warned that the military has responded to resistance victories by stepping up attacks against civilians with its aircraft and artillery capabilities. Thailand delivered its first humanitarian aid to Myanmar on March 25 in an effort to help 20,000 displaced people fleeing the fighting. The UN states that 18.6 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.


Sudan 

Fighting between the RSF and the SAF continued during March in Darfur, Kordofan, Khartoum, and al-Jazirah, with the SAF gaining territory in the state of Khartoum. On March 12, the SAF regained control of the state broadcast headquarters in old Omdurman and vowed to rout the RSF. The two warring parties have also carried on exercising retaliatory violence against civilians for their conflict-related allegiances in Darfur, Kordofan, and al-Jazirah. Dialogue between the RSF and the SAF seems inconclusive as they keep a hostile attitude towards each other. Nonetheless, international parties, among whom the US, is looking to reopen talks between the SAF and the RSF to ease the conflict and substantially increase the delivery of humanitarian aid. The SAF rejected calls by the UN Security Council for a truce for the month of Ramadan to let humanitarian aid inside the country, citing the failure of the RSF to comply with their commitment to leave civilian sites. As the humanitarian crisis worsens, the World Food Programme warned that it could suspend operations in Chad, where many Sudanese nationals found refuge, in April due to the severe lack of funds. 


In late March, the RSF rejected an agreement between the governor of Darfur and UN agencies to deliver humanitarian aid into Darfur, likely the area where the population is most impacted by the conflict. In Sudan, rising prices and food shortages are causing severe food insecurity. Mobile blackouts have also continued throughout March, further exacerbating the everyday difficulties for civilians relying on electronic cash transactions in many parts of the country. Despite recurring warnings by UNICEF and the UN about an imminent famine in Sudan, the delivery of humanitarian aid remains insufficient and often endangered by the ongoing conflict. 



Alerts, March 2024 


China-Philippines

The sovereignty dispute between China and the Philippines over the Spratly Islands continued in March 2024. A Philippines vessel based on one of the disputed Spratly Islands since the Second World War has been resupplied by the Philippine military and coast guard. The formidable and well-equipped Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) has attempted to stop Philippine resupply missions. Reports have noted several dangerous encounters, with the CCG ramming a coast guard vessel. Four Philippine Navy personnel also sustained injuries when hit by a water cannon. China’s defense ministry stated that “China has taken control measures in accordance with the law”. Following these clashes, the Chinese foreign ministry said that relations between the two countries are at a turning point, though it’s unclear how long this situation can be maintained. The Philippines has lodged several diplomatic protests against the Chinese embassy, saying that it should uphold the 2016 Court of Arbitration, stating that China’s claims to the entirety of the South China Sea have no basis in international law. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the US commitment to defending the Philippine’s access to its territorial claims due to the 1951 mutual defense treaty. The US launched further ‘freedom of navigation’ exercises in the South China Sea, which Beijing says has threatened regional stability.   


Mexico

On March 1, campaigning for the biggest election in Mexico's history began. Mexico is set to make history next June 2, when voters will most likely choose a woman as President. According to recent polls, the front-runner would be former Mexico City mayor and ruling party candidate Claudia Sheinbaum. However, so far, protests and election-related violence raised major concerns ahead of the upcoming elections. Massive demonstrations took place in major cities over the past few weeks after a controversial constitutional reform package advanced by President López Obrador. The reforms include the dissolution and restructuring of the National Electoral Institute (INE), an autonomous body that oversees elections. Protesters denounce this reform as a threat to Mexican democracy and are concerned about rigged and non-transparent upcoming elections. The leading presidential candidate, Sheinbaum, backed by President López Obrador, will likely pursue constitutional reforms upon election. 


Organized crime attacks on the upcoming elections are a significant concern for Mexico's stability and democracy. Several incidents of election-related violence have been reported since the beginning of the electoral campaign, such as political violence, attacks, and killings by criminal groups targeting local candidates. Further protests are taking place calling for action from the government over the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa in 2014. López Obrador has received criticism for the lack of success in finding the students despite his promises to do so during the 2018 election. 


Mexico is experiencing complex challenges which are likely to persist in following months. Rising levels of election-related violence are likely ahead of June elections. Anti-government and pro-democracy protests are expected in coming weeks. Disruption and political unrest are possible. Clashes with law enforcement and escalation of violence cannot be ruled out. 


Nigeria 

The persistent economic crisis faced by Nigeria is fuelling instability and violence in the country. Soaring inflation and the dramatic cost-of-living increase are worsening the already precarious food security situation. A large portion of the population is experiencing extreme food insecurity. In a matter of months, the cost of several basic food staples has doubled. Attacks on trucks carrying food supplies, like pasta and rice, and looting of emergency supplies have been reported. Violence over access to resources and food is rampant throughout the country. On March 3, hundreds of people looted a government warehouse in Abuja. Food shortages are spurring widespread popular dissatisfaction with President Bola Tinubu's government. The current protests in Nigeria can be traced largely to the unpopular reforms to remove fuel subsidy, implemented by Bola Tinubu after taking office in May 2023. In the wake of the recent unrest, the government has pledged to stem the deteriorating economic situation by implementing several policies to address the food insecurity crisis and increase food production without backtracking on subsidy cuts. The situation in Nigeria is unlikely to improve in the near future. The persistent crisis and food shortages will likely foment more discontent, protests, and looting in the coming months. Finally, the deepening economic crisis is likely to worsen existing security concerns in Nigeria such as crime, armed groups, and widespread corruption. 


Pakistan-Afghanistan 

Ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan strained in March after deadly cross-border attacks. On March 16, a terrorist attack on a security forces post in North Waziristan district in Pakistan resulted in seven Pakistan security personnel and six militants. On March 18, Pakistani airstrikes targeted terrorist groups in Afghanistan, killing at least five people as retaliation to the attack. The Pakistani foreign ministry announced that the attacks were targeting the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TPP) based in Afghanistan. The Taliban spokesperson condemned the Pakistani airstrikes. 


On March 20, Pakistan’s security forces repelled an attack by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) on the port of Gwadar, killing eight fighters. As skirmishes with the Taliban and Taliban-affiliated groups continued, Pakistan security forces decided to close the border with Afghanistan on March 24. However, on March 26, Pakistan was once again targeted by Baloch militants. The attack took place at the Turbat naval base in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least one Pakistani soldier. All five Baloch assailants were killed in retaliatory fire. 


Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have worsened in recent years as Pakistan has accused the Taliban of letting the TPP use Afghan soil to conduct attacks against Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban has denied those allegations. The Pakistani government has also expressed concerns over alleged joint attacks by the TTP and the BLA. As the March attacks by the BLA focussed on Chinese infrastructure projects in the country, it seems that the BLA tries to influence the relationship between Pakistan and China. China is one of Pakistan’s closest allies and has massively invested into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 


The recent cross-border attacks signal heightened tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the TPP, and the BLA, making the current security situation in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan extremely unstable. There is a possibility for further escalation with an increase in cross-border attacks in the near future.



Updates, March 2024


Haiti

The protracted crisis in Haiti reached a critical point in March 2024, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency on March 3. The already precarious security situation in the country was worsened by a series of coordinated attacks by gangs targeting government buildings, police stations, and other sites of interest. Gang members broke into two of the main prisons of Port-au-Prince, freeing over 4000 inmates and seizing the capital’s International Airport. 


According to Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, leader of the gang coalition G9 controlling over 80% of the capital, the spike in gang-related violence and the attacks were triggered by interim PM Ariel Henry’s visit to Kenya. The visit was made to sign a UN-backed multinational security deal (MSS) to help tackle the security situation in Haiti. Henry, appointed as PM after the assassination of President Moise in 2021, repeatedly delayed the elections, leading to widespread popular discontent. Gangs were calling for Henry’s resignation for months, threatening a "civil war" if the international community persisted in supporting an unelected government. Following the escalation of violence, Henry faced strong domestic and international pressure to facilitate a transition and ultimately announced his resignation on March 12. While the transitional council and interim premier's official appointment is pending, Haiti's situation remains highly volatile. On April 1, an armed attack targeting the national palace sparked panic in the capital. At least four people were killed in the clashes.. 


Following the recent spike in violence, leading to at least 30000 displaced people, the country is facing an unprecedented acute security and humanitarian crisis. Prolonged instability and limited access to international aid are causing food and basic goods shortages. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), over 4.97 million Haitians are currently facing severe food insecurity. The situation is still extremely unstable. Despite Henry's resignation, gang-related violence will likely remain elevated at least until the next election. Polls are expected to take place within the next two years. International community's support will be needed to address the humanitarian crisis and restore the country's stability. Nevertheless, the future of the MSS, halted by the Kenyan government on March 22, remains uncertain, and the international community has not yet agreed on its approach to the crisis in Haiti.


North Korea 

North Korea has conducted several military exercises and ramped up its war rhetoric throughout March. After rejecting a commitment to ‘peaceful reunification’ with South Korea in January, Kim Jong Un has used threats of active warfare and missile tests to intimidate South Korea. On March 7 2024, North Korea again conducted artillery firing drills as a response to US-South Korea military training. North Korean media reported Kim Jong Un next to the artillery, supervising the troops. South Korea’s president has ruled out conciliation with the North as long as the exercises continue. Partially as a response to the threats to South Korea and Japan and to deter North Korea, the United States and South Korea have responded by expanding their combined training and trilateral drills involving Japan and sharpening their deterrence strategies built around strategic U.S. assets. The confrontational rhetoric and military exercises have added to the tensions in the demilitarized zone (DMZ). On April 2, Japan's Defense Ministry said North Korea has launched what could be a ballistic missile, which reached some 600 kilometers in distance. North Korea seems to utilize the world's focus on Russia-Ukraine to further advance its weapons to reach US targets in the Pacific Ocean.



 

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About the authors 


Elena de Mitri 

Elena is a highly motivated person with a strong interest in international security. She holds a Master's degree in International Studies from the University of Turin, where she focused on regime changes and human rights. Her research during her master's studies delved deeper into the intricacies of human rights violations, with a specific emphasis on the war in Iraq. Her academic journey also includes a Bachelor's degree in Foreign Languages and Cultures, with a focus on the MENA region and muslim societies. Additionally she pursued a Minor in Gender Studies, enhancing her understanding of the intersectionality of various issues in international contexts. During her previous traineeship at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission she conducted research on terrorist groups, especially on jihadist groups and right-wing extremists.


Arianna Lucà

Arianna is a new intern at Dyami, covering the role of Research Intelligence Analyst to enrich her background knowledge in International Relations with topics involving security and conflict. She holds an MA in International Relations from Leiden University and an LLM in European Criminal Justice from Utrecht University. During her academic career, she has volunteered for different NGOs, mainly Amnesty International, and Emergency and ActionAid, embracing humanitarian and conflict security causes, and addressing issues like famine and lack of security in different regions of the world. With Dyami, she is contributing to joint publications, writing articles, and keeping up to date with key regional developments.


Mickey Beckmann

Mickey is currently enrolled in the master’s program Conflict Studies & Human Rights at the University of Utrecht. Motivated to make the world a safer and more accessible place, she completed a bachelor in ‘International Relations in Historical Perspective’ at Utrecht University. Her main topics of interest are radicalization, extremism, terrorism, jihadism and conflict in the Middle East. Eager to broaden her knowledge of geopolitical conflict and security, during her internship at Dyami she will actively participate in writing collaborative publications and authoring articles, with a main focus on the region North and Sub-Saharan Africa.


Iris de Boer

Iris works as a Global Intelligence Analyst at Dyami, leveraging her background in Human Geography. Additionally, Iris holds an MA degree in Conflict Studies and Human Rights from Utrecht University, specializing in conflict analysis, peace processes, and geopolitics. Her MA thesis delved into the securitization of the war in Ukraine by the Heads of State, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and Ministers of Defense of the Netherlands and Poland. Within Dyami, Iris is actively involved in security risk management, travel security, and geopolitical analysis. Her enthusiasm for addressing topics in international security extends across a diverse spectrum of countries and regions.


Jacob Dickinson 

Jacob studied Global Political Economy at Leiden University. He is passionate about international development and is looking to expand his expertise in geopolitics and crisis management. Curious about other cultures, he has traveled in Europe and Asia for both academic study and professional purposes. His expertise includes the geopolitics of oil and industrial upgrading in the electronics global value chain. He is particularly interested in the evolving political and economic relationships between China and ASEAN, and the consequences for regional development and security. 


Kevin Heller 

Kevin has over a decade of experience in the world of counter-terrorism as a consultant, trainer, and analyst. His background is in military Close Quarter Battle/Combat and Krav Maga for Military and Law Enforcement agencies. As a Global Intelligence Analyst, he writes Intel Briefs on conflict zones and terrorism. He has extensive knowledge of conflicts, politics, and other events happening in the Middle East. Kevin also has a background in Journalism and International Affairs/Conflict Studies.


Sara Frisan 

Sara joined Dyami as a Junior Intelligence/Research Analyst post-graduate intern to deepen her passionate interest in conflict analysis and security. Sara recently completed her MA in Conflict Studies and Human Rights at Utrecht University and held an MA degree in International Sciences and Peace Studies. During her academic career, she conducted research in South America, primarily Colombia, on the dynamics of collaboration and resistance between civilians and non-state armed groups in violent settings. In her previous internship at the investigative think-tank InSight Crime, Sara developed some expertise on transnational organized crime and political-criminal alliances.  
































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