Warzone News February 17, 2016

warzone news(1)Warzone News: Week of February 17, 2016

In Afghanistan, the number of civilians killed or wounded annually increased to 11,002 in 2015, the highest number on record since the conflict began.

In Burundi, conflict continues to escalate after two ruling-party loyalists were publicly executed by rebel forces on Saturday. Thousands of Burundians participated in government-sanctioned demonstrations against neighboring Rwanda, following accusations that Rwanda has been training refugees to overthrow the Burundian government.  Although the government of Rwanda denies these allegations, those seeking refuge fear for their safety after a statement was issued saying that Rwanda will arrange for Burundian refugees to relocate to other countries. The European Union has warned that it is ready to impose more sanctions against those in Burundi whose “actions might have led or might lead to acts of violence and repression (and) serious human rights violations.”

In Central African Republic, voters cast their ballots to elect new democratic leadership on Sunday. The results will be announced in two weeks.  Unfortunately, Sunday’s runoff election had a lower voter turnout than the first round of elections. The UN has asked the DRC to investigate allegations of rape committed by peacekeepers from the Central African Republic.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rebels in the northeastern part of the country killed six civilians and kidnapped 14 others last Friday. Local human rights groups blamed the Allied Democratic Forces, a rebel group with origins in neighboring Uganda. There is mounting tension over the possibility that President Joseph Kabila might seek a third term in office, even though the constitution bars such a move. This could undermine political and economic gains made over the past decade. Opposition leader Martin Fayulu was detained briefly for “incitation to public disorder” ahead of general strikes in the capital on Tuesday, aimed at raising pressure on President Kabila to step down when his mandate ends in December.

In Iraq, samples confirm that mustard gas, a biological weapon prohibited under international law, was used by ISIS against Kurdish forces in August 2015.

In Israel and Palestine, Israeli police officers were filmed pushing a wheelchair-bound Palestinian man to the ground, following an attempted stabbing attack by a Palestinian teenager. That same day, Israeli police officers said they shot and killed 5 Palestinian assailants. Two of those killed were 15-year-olds who had been throwing rocks at cars  On Monday, Palestinian foreign minister Riad al-Malki warned that ISIS may attempt to take over the West Bank unless credible peace brokers prevent a future power vacuum in the territory.

In Libya, the presidential council named a revised unity government “lineup” late on Sunday under a United Nations-backed plan aimed at ending the conflict.

In Myanmar, over 3,000 people have fled their homes after heavy fighting in the northern Shan state broke last week between the Restoration Council for Shan State and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.  These clashes between ethnic rebel groups raise fears that the new government’s fragile peace efforts could be fracturing.

In Somalia, al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for killing Somalia’s former defense minister with a car bomb in capital Mogadishu. The group has also claimed that it has retrieved an unmarked drone, armed with six missiles, after it crashed in southern Gedo region.  Evidence has been found that Boko Haram fighters are being trained in the country before going back to Nigeria, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said at a security conference on Sunday.

In Sudan, fighting in the Jebel Marra and Jebel Si areas of North Darfur, Sudan, has forced families to flee for protection. The latest hostilities have forced 58,000 people, mostly women and children, to abandon their homes, farms and livestock for the relative safety of camps near the towns of Tawilla and Sortony. Read Doctors Without Borders’ report here.

In South Sudan, economic hardship and conflict have led to an increase in forced and child marriages. The rebel leader, Riek Machar, has accepted his appointment by President Salva Kiir as vice president and will return to the country to take up the position when “adequate security arrangements are made.” Machar called for the demilitarization of the capital, Juba, and that the first phase of integrating government and rebel forces should be done before his return.

In Syria, Doctors Without Borders says at least 8 staff and patients were killed and many more missing, after air strikes hit medical facilities in Idlib. The humanitarian aid group is calling this a deliberate attack.

In Yemen, humanitarian aid has reached the embattled city center of Taiz for the first time in months following negotiations to allow supplies into the area on the brink of famine. UN humanitarian affairs chief Stephen O’Brien has said that a “humanitarian catastrophe” is unfolding in Yemen and urged the UN Security Council to demand that all combatants facilitate unconditional humanitarian access to all parts of Yemen.

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