Written by Dyami Editorial Team
Russia-Ukraine - Ukraine faces infrastructure issues from both winter weather and Russian attacks, gains continue on the Southern front while Avdiivka holds.
Israel-Hamas - The ceasefire and hostages versus prisoners exchange has brought calm to the region for now, but the war between Israel and Hamas will continue.
Sudan - Extensive human rights abuses in Sudan’s Darfur and the humanitarian situation worsens due to food and water and food shortages.
Myanmar - Escalation of civil war as rebel groups take military-held towns and cities in the east.
The Sahel Region - Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso witnessed a worsening of the security and humanitarian situation and a consolidation of their trilateral ties.
Yemen - Potential escalation in Yemen as Houthi rebels fires missiles at Israel and raid ships at international waterway.
Bangladesh - Crackdown on opposition party after protests as new elections loom.
Argentina - Election of far-right candidate Milei to the Presidency puts Argentina on an uncertain path due to his radical, libertarian political agenda.
The Netherlands - Radical right nationalist party PVV wins Dutch elections, heightens terrorism risk to Dutch interests.
Guyana-Venezuela - Tensions rise between Guyana and Venezuela over December 3 referendum on the status of resource-rich Essequibo region.
Pakistan - Afghanistan - Reports of human rights abuses as Pakistani authorities attempt to expel 1.7 million Afghans.
Conflicts - November 2023
In November 2023, despite the winter conditions impacting both Russian and Ukrainian military operations, there was an escalation of fighting. The Ukrainian military made gains near Bakhmut and the Dnipro River, while intense fighting continued on the Eastern front, near Avdiivka. Nuclear safety concerns at the Zaporizhzhya plant were highlighted amidst ongoing power shortages. Accusations of war crimes intensified, with more reports of sexual violence perpetrated by Russian forces. Russian missile attacks targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have increased over the past month, intending to disrupt Ukrainian power networks with the onset of winter conditions.
Internationally, Ukraine engaged in defense cooperation talks with the US whilst Germany pledged to double its military aid. However, electoral successes by political parties broadly viewed as less supportive of Ukraine in Slovakia and the Netherlands suggest that political support for Ukraine is starting to decrease. In Russia, the trial of opposition politician, Ilya Yashin, commenced. Finland closed the border with Russia for two weeks to halt a large flow of asylum seekers, which Finland claims is expressly orchestrated by Moscow. A newly deployed fleet from several Northern European countries’ Joint Expeditionary Force has increased paranoid rhetoric from Russia. Ukraine’s military faced internal restructuring, and President Zelenskyy has begun to push for further development of the country’s domestic defense production. Despite some success for Ukraine, the war is likely to last into 2025 at least, unless major changes happen. Russia may capitalize on the onset of winter to intensify its military campaign, attempting to leverage Ukraine’s vulnerabilities related to infrastructure and humanitarian needs.
After the initial attacks in Israel by Hamas in October 2023, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invaded the Gaza Strip in an attempt to neutralize Hamas’ infrastructure and leadership. In the first half of November, the IDF managed to cut off the northern part of Gaza from the rest of the Strip and attacked the Hamas tunnel infrastructure. The encirclement of Gaza City led to a large internal displacement of the population. International pressure on Israel to send in food, fuel, and medicines through the Rafah corridor led to Israel opening the corridor on a few occasions; but according to the United Nations, it was not sufficient. The rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel continued during the fight over Gaza City but decreased significantly. Meanwhile, the IDF continued its operations in the West Bank against Palestinian Jihadist and Hamas cells. Several terrorists attempted to infiltrate Jerusalem, with one group carrying automatic weapons and axes, but were neutralized by the IDF.
In the second half of November, the international community put pressure on Israel to enter a ceasefire agreement with Hamas to provide aid and free hostages. On November 24, Israel and Hamas started their first Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners exchange and a ceasefire began. Meanwhile, the security agencies of the US, Israel, and Qatar met on several occasions to discuss a continuation of the ceasefire and the exchange of hostages versus prisoners. The ceasefire has held and many Palestinians have returned to Gaza City to retrieve their belongings. The IDF declared that it will continue its campaign to dismantle Hamas in the coming months and that the war is not over. The United States has urged Israel not to occupy Gaza City permanently and not to wage a similar campaign in the south of Gaza. Israel has responded stating that neutralizing Hamas has priority.
Yemen-based Houthi rebels have increased missile attacks fired against Israel in November, most of which were intercepted by Israeli missile defenses or landed in the Red Sea and neighboring countries. The Houthis have targeted international maritime routes and ships in the important Red Sea shipping lane. A group of Houthi soldiers boarded one ship successfully in the Red Sea, claiming that it was owned by Israel. Israeli authorities refuted this and pointed to the ship’s joint ownership of Japanese and British owners with an international crew. In the Indian Ocean, the Houthis attempted to capture another cargo ship and fired a missile at another, but both attacks were unsuccessful. In response, the US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby advocated designating the Houthis as a terrorist organization, which could lead to US missile strikes against Houthi launch pads in Yemen. Despite Saudi efforts to maintain the peace deal between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis, ongoing Houthis attacks against Israel could provoke a further response from the US and reignite conflict in Yemen.
The civil war between the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces escalated dramatically in November. Fighting intensified in the north of Darfur. The RSF has almost taken the entire region from the SAF and experts have warned of further ethnic mass killings and war crimes. The RSF and Arab militias killed 1,300 non-Arab Masalit civilians in the city of El Geneina in Western Darfur in April of this year. Since the outbreak of conflict in April, 9,000 civilians have died, 4.3 million people have been displaced and at least 1.1 million have fled to neighboring countries such as Chad, South Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Central African Republic.
From 18 November to 20 November, a Sudan Humanitarian Crisis Conference was held in Cairo where international organizations and grassroots aid organizations from Sudan discussed how to act, communicate, and coordinate more effectively with local groups. Aid organizations raise the alarm that the conflict is a disastrous humanitarian crisis; aid workers from Sudan are kidnapped, raped, and attacked regularly. With another offensive planned by the RSF and human rights abuses showing no sign of stopping, the conflict is likely to intensify in the coming months.
The civil war in Myanmar changed rapidly in November. The military junta, which took power in February 2021, has lost ground to a coordinated assault from three opposition groups in the eastern Shan state on the border with China. On October 27, the armed groups captured over 100 military-held towns and severed a key trade link between the Myanmar capital and China in ‘Operation 1027’. Fighting is ongoing over the city of Laukkaing, a border city with China with extensive links to transnational criminal networks and human trafficking. The scale of success by opposition groups is a serious challenge to the Myanmar military, given their inability to mount a response. The fighting has led to the displacement of at least 30,000 according to the UN, with further refugees fleeing the violence.
The military junta’s loss of control poses questions over their relations with other actors in the region. China has a strong preference for stability in the country given its significant infrastructure interest in developing a port to the Bay of Bengal and raw material investments. Yet the inability of Myanmar’s military to tackle emerging transnational crime and the human trafficking network has led to a growing Chinese military presence on the border. For India, Myanmar is a strategic link between the trilateral highway and the power grid connecting the north-eastern region of India and Thailand. While both powers maintained relations with the Myanmar military junta since the coup, the latest offensive presents strategic problems, with outside actors questioning the durability of the military. While the junta has setbacks, it still has experience in fighting multiple counter-insurgencies within Myanmar. In terms of equipment, the military also has the advantage of fighter jets and artillery capabilities purchased from Russia. Despite the progress from ethnic and pro-democracy groups, the conflict is likely to intensify in the coming months.
6. The Sahel Region
Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, the Sahel region, witnessed a worsening of the security and humanitarian situation. In Mali, following clashes in the northern town of Kidal, the Malian army announced on November 14 that the city had been recaptured from the political-military Tuareg rebel group. Kidal, in which about 25,000 people live, has long been a stronghold for the Tuareg rebel group, and its recapture marks an important turning point for Malian forces. The BBC reports that the Malian army is backed by Wagner group mercenaries. The rebels stated they left the city for ‘strategic reasons.’ It is difficult to estimate a precise death toll because of the remoteness of the region. Despite the victory for the Malian forces, fighting continues in other parts of the country between armed forces and Tuareg rebels, while UN peacekeeping troops withdraw.
In Burkina Faso, on November 26, fighters related to the terrorist organization Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) attacked an army base in the north of Burkina Faso. The fighters also attacked homes and a camp for internally displaced people, killing at least 40. The Burkinabe Armed Forces neutralized the JNIM gunmen after a three-hour-long attack. On November 5, around 70 people were killed in a massacre in the town of Zaongo, according to Burkinabe authorities. According to the EU, there could be up to 100 victims.
In September 2023, the military governments of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger established the Alliance of the Sahel States (AES). On November 25, the alliance held its first summit in Bamako, with intergovernmental discussions on counterterrorism and economic development in the region. The creation of the AES is a response to their increasing isolation from the international community. In November, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that condemned the military coup d’etat in Niger and at the end of October, agreed on a framework for targeted EU sanctions on the country.
The countries are also strengthening their ties with Russia. Malian authorities have signed a deal with Russia to build a gold refinery in a bid to ‘control all gold production.’ In Burkina Faso, authorities announced the construction of a civil nuclear plant by Russian Rosatom and reportedly welcomed around 20 Russian soldiers in the country at the beginning of November.
Alerts - November 2023
Mass protests in Bangladesh began at the end of October and continued in November. The leading opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) called for protests to remove the incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and replace him with a neutral caretaker government, claiming that the ruling Awami League will not hold free and fair elections in January 2024. The protests escalated in the capital with buses set on fire and police using rubber bullets against protestors, resulting in the death of a police officer and injuring more than 100 hundred people. The government has cracked down on the opposition party, with security forces arresting over 10,000 political opponents, according to Human Rights Watch. Given the Awami League’s hold over the security apparatus, it will likely continue its hard-handed oppression of the BNP and may lead to further violence ahead of the elections in January.
On November 19, Javier Milei, the anti-establishment candidate of the far-right, won Argentina's second-round elections, with 55.8 percent of the vote. The president-elect's radical, and libertarian political agenda is controversial at home and abroad. The Argentine election result has sparked mixed reactions worldwide, between enthusiastic support from other far-right leaders such as Bolsonaro, Putin, and former U.S. President Trump and dismay from others, including leftist leaders from Colombia and Venezuela.
Domestically, Milei’s election provoked protests from a section of the population concerned about the possible negative outcomes of his proposed policy agenda. However, the opposition, made up of labor unions, social organizations, and human rights activists, is adopting a wait-and-see posture until his inauguration on December 10. The opposition has warned that they will resist if Milei implements pledged policies such as cutting the size of the state, privatizing companies, and suspending the peso in favor of the dollar. The Milei administration has a substantial challenge ahead, given the country’s precarious economic conditions and growing socio-political tensions. Also, the new leader’s radical stances on environmental issues and human rights will likely generate further protests in the coming weeks.
3. The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, the general election took place on November 22 to elect a new House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer). The PVV, a radical right nationalist party headed by Geert Wilders, won 37 seats, ahead of green-left GL-PvdA with 25 seats. The center-right ruling party, the VVD, lost 10 seats and ended with 24 seats. PVV is expected to form a right-wing government with the VVD, NSC, and BBB, but the outcome of coalition government negotiations is unknown. Due to Wilders’ strong opposition to Islam and asylum seekers, his prominence, as well as recent public statements regarding the placement of Palestinian refugees, have received condemnation from several Arab and Muslim-majority nations.
Updates - November 2023
As the December 3 Venezuelan referendum approaches to confirm Venezuelan claims to the Essequibo region, tensions are growing between the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The long-standing dispute was reignited by Guyana’s discovery of a significant oil and gas reserve and subsequent ExxonMobil concession. In the referendum, Venezuelans will be asked whether they reject the 1899 arbitration and the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction and oppose Guyana’s unilateral appropriation of Essequibo territorial waters. In addition, Venezuelan voters will vote on the creation of the new State of Guayana Esequiba in the disputed area, whose residents will be granted the status of full Venezuelan citizens. The Venezuelan government is running a massive propaganda campaign ahead of the referendum. In response, Guyana asked for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) intervention to stop the referendum and preserve Guyana’s sovereignty over Essequibo. Hearings of representatives of the governments of Guyana and Venezuela were held at the ICJ on November 14 and 15, respectively. The ICJ announced that its ruling over the Essequibo dispute will be issued on December 1, 2023.
In early November, the Venezuelan government denounced an alleged joint announcement between Guyana and the United States to strengthen the U.S. military presence in the Essequibo Strip. Although there is no evidence of ongoing joint military operations with the U.S., on November 28 and 29, Guyana and U.S. Defence Forces held a meeting to discuss the establishment of an enhanced military partnership. Also, on November 26, Guyana’s President Mohamed Irfaan Ali said that the country had instituted a contingency plan to deal with the eventual repercussions of border dispute escalations. Meanwhile, protests have been reported in the Essequibo Strip by the local population in support of the region's affiliation with Guyana and to reject the prospect of acquiring Venezuelan citizenship.
On November 1, Pakistani authorities ordered 1.7 million refugees and migrants from Afghanistan to leave the country. It is estimated that there are 4 million Afghan refugees who have traveled to Pakistan over the years, many with official documentation. However, around 1.7 million reportedly have no official documentation from either country due to the porous borders. Tens of thousands headed for the border before November 1 and around 400.000 Afghans have left the country over the course of the month. Human Rights Watch reported widespread abuses with Pakistani police compelling Afghans to return to the border through forced displacement, bribery, seizing their property, and taking action against residents protecting Afghans without proper documents.
The authorities announced the decision in response to a spike in terrorist attacks from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, an Afghan Taliban-affiliated organization. While Pakistan thought the Taliban’s return to power would help its efforts to contain the TTP, terror attacks have escalated since then, killing hundreds of security forces. Following the Taliban’s return to power after their takeover of the country, Afghanistan is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis. The forced displacement of Afghans without registration in Pakistan is an additional challenge for the already struggling country.
Authors: Alessia Cappeletti, Kevin Heller, Mark Bruno, Jacob Dickinson, Roos Nijmeijers, and Sara Frisan.