May 25, 2015
In the news:
As always, ISIS is making headlines, this week taking full control of the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An activist in Palmyra stated, “The Syrian army has retreated, ISIL are infested in almost all of the city.” Palmyra’s Roman architecture dates back to the first and second century, and many fear that ISIS will destroy the ancient ruins. UNESCO’s director general commented, “[Palmyra is] the birthplace of human civilization. It belongs to the whole of humanity and I think everyone today should be worried about what is happening.” According to the Syrian Observatory, a human rights monitoring group, ISIS now controls over half of Syrian territory.
ISIS also took over Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province last Sunday, killing up to 500 civilians and 100 Iraqi soldiers and allied Shiite militias who were sent in to the fight by the Iraqi government. The U.S. military claims that these gains by ISIS are temporary and the organization “does remain on the defensive,” and on Wednesday, Iraqi forces stated that they fought off an overnight attack by Islamic State militants outside Ramadi. The failure of Iraqi security forces to defend the city has many people questioning the U.S. strategy in the fight against ISIS, especially the training and equipping of Sunni tribal fighters. U.S. military officials believe that Ramadi fell largely because the Iraqi army did not want to fight ISIS and fled from the attack. We can expect much discussion regarding strategy and operations in both Iraq and Syria this week following last week’s advances of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in both nations.
Also last weekend, U.S. Special Operations forces killed a top ISIS leader, known as Abu Sayyaf, in a raid during which they secured intelligence on the terrorist organization’s operations, communications, and financing. Sayyaf was thought to be the organization’s “chief financial officer” and responsible for overseeing ISIS’s black-market oil and gas sales. It is also believed that Sayyaf may have held American Kayla Mueller hostage before her death at the hands of ISIS militants. The U.S.-led coalition continues to conduct airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, launching seven airstrikes in Syria and fourteen in Iraq at the beginning of the week.
Nigeria is also dealing with systematic violence, as Boko Haram militants have engaged in systematic rape of hundreds of captured women and girls potentially for the purpose of producing children who will one day by members of the terrorist organization. The governor of Borno state, northeastern Nigeria, stated that the militant group deliberately impregnated 214 girls who were recently rescued by the Nigerian military. In positive news, the Nigerian military destroyed ten Boko Haram camps and has confined the militant group to one final hideout in northeast Nigeria.
In Yemen, despite requests for an extension by the United Nations and international aid organizations, the humanitarian ceasefire ended this week and Saudi-led airstrikes resumed in the capital Sanaa along with all other military operations. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s spring fighting season is officially underway and Afghan forces are fighting to keep the Taliban at bay as the militants are expanding their reach into new regions of Afghanistan. This is the first spring fighting season since the U.S. ended combat operations in Afghanistan and is proving to be one of the most violent in a decade.
Regarding the conflict in Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko stated on Wednesday, “this is not a fight with Russian-backed separatists, this is a real war with Russia.” Ukraine’s claim is supported by its capture of two men in the Luhansk region who Ukraine claims are elite Russian soldiers; however, Russia stated that the two men were no longer actively serving “at the moment they were detained.” Despite a ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and Russia in February, fighting has continued, and according to President Poroshenko, at least 83 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed since the ceasefire came into effect. 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict since fighting began in eastern Ukraine in April 2014, according to the U.N.
Around the web:
Refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. People have been fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East seeking refuge in Europe through the Mediterranean Sea. Read this interesting report on the reasons behind the phenomena and its implications.
Fighter, Not Killer. Geneva Call has released a new mobile application to raise awareness of international humanitarian law among armed groups. The app presents the user with real life situations and questions about means and methods, assisting the wounded, protections for children, and the conduct of hostilities.
How much of your life has the U.S. been at war? In the past century, the United States has been involved in several armed conflicts, despite not having declared war since World War II. For many Americans being at war has been the norm – anyone born after 1980 has experienced the United States being at war for at least half of their lives. The Washington Post presents this analysis in an interesting graph.
On the blog:
Clara Barton and Elizabeth Pryor: Inspiring Humanitarians. In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and Memorial Day, the IHL team is presenting a special blog series showcasing Elizabeth Pryor’s lecture on why Clara Barton deserved to be “Person of the Year” for 1865. The series will showcase Clara Barton’s impressive achievements promoting humanity in war.
Red Cross Clubs Teach Peers with Innovative IHL Action Campaigns. The Washington University – St. Louis team presented a full week on campus to teach students about the refugee experience, while the San Gabriel Pomona Valley team focused on gender, using an interactive game to reach their peers. At Valparaiso University, the team created a refugee simulation camp to provide students with an immersive experience.