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Conflict and Peace

Stories related to violent conflicts, diplomatic tensions, and conflict prevention, mediation and resolution.

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News
Iran seizes Israel-linked container ship in the Gulf of Hormuz

Iran seizes Israel-linked container ship in the Gulf of Hormuz

Amid heightened tension in the Middle East, and an expectation of some sort of Iranian attack on Israel, it was announced on Saturday (13 April) that Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval units had seized an Israeli linked container ship in the Straits of Hormuz. “A container ship named ‘MCS Aries’ was seized by the Sepah (Guards) Navy Special Forces by carrying out a heliborne operation,” IRNA, the Iranian state news agency reported, adding that the operation took place “near the Strait of Hormuz” and “this ship has now been directed toward the territorial waters” of Iran. Several media sources have aired a video that shows commandos raiding a ship near the Strait of Hormuz by helicopter. The video showed the attack earlier reported by the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations. It described the vessel as being “seized by regional authorities” in the Gulf of Oman off the Emirati port city of Fujairah, without elaborating. The vessel involved is likely the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime. Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC, which did not immediately respond. The MSC Aries had been last located off Dubai heading toward the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. The ship had turned off its tracking data, which has been common for Israeli-affiliated ships moving through the region. Regional media reported that 20 Filipinos were on board the ship.
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News
US sees Iran moving military equipment including drones and cruise missiles

US sees Iran moving military equipment including drones and cruise missiles

The US has observed Iran moving military equipment, including drones and cruise missiles, around the country, signalling that it may be preparing to attack Israeli targets from within its own territory, two intelligence officials told CNN reporters. However, it is not clear whether Iran is preparing to strike from its soil as part of an initial attack, or whether it is posturing to try to deter Israel or the US from a possible counterstrike on its territory.  One of the intelligence officials said the US had observed Iran preparing as many as 100 cruise missiles.

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Editor's choice
News
Incidents on Armenia-Azerbaijan border leave dead and injured soldiers (Updated)

Incidents on Armenia-Azerbaijan border leave dead and injured soldiers (Updated)

Armenia and Azerbaijan have reported incidents on their border in the last twenty four hours as a result of which there are several casualties, including four dead Armenian soldiers.. In the first incident, on Monday 12th February in the afternoon, Azerbaijan reported that one of its border guards, Parviz Khalizadeh, aged 24 years, was hit by a sniper bullet fired from an Armenian post in the Syunik region. Armenia said that it was investigating the incident. Later, Azerbaijan reported that Armenian forces, between 2050 and 2340 on Monday, had fired at its positions in the northern sector of the common border. No casualties were reported. The Armenian Ministry of Defence strongly denied the claim. This morning (Tuesday 13th), Azerbaijan reported that it had conducted a "retaliatory operation" against the Armenian military post from where the sniper bullet had been fired on Monday near the settlement of Nearkin Hand in the Siyunik region. Armenia confirmed that Azerbaijan had opened fire at 0530 as a result of which four Armenian soldiers were killed and and one more wounded. The four Armenian soldiers who died were named as Eduard Harutyunyan, Gagik Manukyan, Arsen Hambardzumyan, and Hrach Hovhanissian. Both sides held each other responsible for the incidents.
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News
In Yemen the legitimate government announces appointment of a new prime minister whilst rebels continue attacks on Red Sea shipping

In Yemen the legitimate government announces appointment of a new prime minister whilst rebels continue attacks on Red Sea shipping

Yemen's legitimate government announced the appointment of new prime minister. The internationally recognized Presidential Leadership Council head announced that Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak will be the new prime minister. He succeeds Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, who was made an adviser to PLC president, Rashad Al-Alimi. In a post on X, the new prime minister promised to focus on improving living standards for Yemenis, reviving government institutions, and putting an end to the Houthi military seizure of power in Yemen. Meanwhile, Yemen’s Houthi militia on Tuesday launched another wave of missiles toward ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden as the group’s leader vowed to continue attacks until Israel lifted its blockade of Gaza. A cargo vessel sailing 57 nautical miles west of the Houthi-controlled port city of Hodeidah sustained minor damage to its bridge after one of the weapons passed through its deck, according to British maritime agencies the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), and Ambrey. The UKMTO reported that a small boat had been spotted off the ship’s port side. Meanwhile, Ambrey officials said a British-owned and Barbados-flagged cargo ship had been damaged in a drone attack while navigating through the southeast Red Sea. On Tuesday, the UKMTO warned shipping companies operating in the Gulf of Aden to exercise caution after receiving reports of an explosion near to a commercial vessel 50 nautical miles south of the Yemeni city of Aden.
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News
800 western officials say the policies of their governments on Gaza "are contributing to grave violations of international law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide"

800 western officials say the policies of their governments on Gaza "are contributing to grave violations of international law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide"

The BBC is reporting that more than 800 serving officials in the US and Europe have signed a statement warning that their own governments' policies on the Israel-Gaza war could amount to "grave violations of international law". Many are describing the statement as an unprecedented move that reflects great concern in official circles in western countries about the the position of their governments on the situation in Gaza. The "transatlantic statement", a copy of which was passed to the BBC, says their administrations risk being complicit in "one of the worst human catastrophes of this century" but that their expert advice has been sidelined. It is the latest sign of significant levels of dissent within the governments of some of Israel's key Western allies. One signatory to the statement, a US government official with more than 25 years' national security experience, told the BBC of the "continued dismissal" of their concerns. "The voices of those who understand the region and the dynamics were not listened to," said the official. "What's really different here is we're not failing to prevent something, we're actively complicit. That is fundamentally different from any other situation I can recall," added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The statement is signed by civil servants from the US, the EU and 11 European countries including the UK, France and Germany.
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Opinion
Opinion: Roadblock to peace: the geopolitical quagmire of the "Zangezur Corridor"

Opinion: Roadblock to peace: the geopolitical quagmire of the "Zangezur Corridor"

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire agreement that put fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the Soviet-era mainly ethnic Armenian Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) on hold – or at least until it escalated into war in 2016 and more devastatingly in 2020. Despite the involvement of international mediators, peace remained elusive despite occasional claims to the contrary. The sides were said to have gotten close, but never enough to prevent tens of thousands dying in over three decades of conflict.
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Commentary
The work of UNRWA must be sustained

The work of UNRWA must be sustained

Israeli accusations that staff of the UN Humanitarian agency UNRWA which works in Gaza, were involved in the 7 October attacks on Israel need to be taken seriously, and the UN leadership must flash out any bad apples amongst the many, and restore the reputation of the organisation for professionalism. But the knee-jerk reaction of several Western governments in suspending funding to UNRWA is unacceptable, especially given the dire situation of millions of Palestinians, made much worse by the recent war in Gaza. Stopping the work of UNRWA will make an already significant humanitarian disaster much worse. In this regard, countries like Norway and Spain are to be commended. They kept a cool head and reiterated their commitment and support to UNRWA, whilst others were more hasty in halting or suspending support for the agency. There are two problems here: financial and political. The financial aspect is solvable. Gulf states need to step in and compensate for any shortfall in UNRWA’s budget. Other countries need also to step up. But the bigger problem is political. The support of Western countries for UNRWA gives it the necessary prestige that allows its leadership to negotiate the stormy waters of the Middle East. This should not be lost. Countries like UK, Netherlands, Germany and Italy, need to quickly reconsider their position and restore the funding to UNRWA. UNRWA was established in 1948 as a temporary measure to provide relief to the Palestinian people. That seventy-five years later it is still needed more than ever is a testimony of the failure of the international community to do justice to the Palestinians. From the tragedy and suffering of the last five months a new reality must emerge that must necessarily include the creation of a viable Palestinian state. It is time for the EU and European countries in particular, but also the US, to think strategically and act firmly.
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Opinion
Opinion: The ICJ ruling on the “South Africa v. Israel” case is a step in the right direction, but not decisive enough

Opinion: The ICJ ruling on the “South Africa v. Israel” case is a step in the right direction, but not decisive enough

On Friday (26 January) the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague ruled on whether emergency measures are required until a final decision is taken on the South Africa’s genocide case against Israel. The judges ruled that Israel must act to stop genocide in Gaza and allow the flow of humanitarian aid and basic services. Although this verdict is legally binding on the parties involved and a step in the right direction, the ICJ lacks enforcement power. The Court needs the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) to enforce its decision through mechanisms such as sanctions or even military intervention, however, the UNSC is unlikely to do so given the United States’ traditional shielding of Israel through the veto power. Moreover, the Court did not demand a ceasefire that would require Israel to stop its operation in the Gaza Strip. This disappointed many who consider an immediate ceasefire by all parties as being essential in order to end the suffering on civilians.