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  • OSINTSUM: Tuesday 9 January 2024

OSINTSUM: Tuesday 9 January 2024

Chinese population declines for second year in a row, ten major global humanitarian crises identified, and Turkish police leak more details of Israeli spy network

OSINTSUM
Global Situation Update
Tuesday 9 January 2024



Headlines

International
Humanitarian: Ten major global humanitarian crises highlighted

Africa
Africa: Anti-LGBT legislation "surging" across continent
Sudan: 18 million facing acute hunger

Asia/Oceania
Bangladesh: UK and US say elections were not free and fair
Bhutan: Voters begin casting ballots amid economic crisis
Japan: Death toll from New Year's Day earthquake reaches 161
Maldives: President seeks investment from China as Indian ties deteriorate
South Korea: Dog meat industry to be outlawed from 2027

China
China: Head of consulting agency accused of spying for UK
China: Population decline blamed on Covid-19 and weak economy

Europe
Bosnia-Herzegovinia: Concerns over cessation as Serbian enclave to celebrate national day
France: Prime Minister resigns ahead of expected reshuffle
Ukraine: German chancellor criticises lack of EU support

Israel/Hamas Conflict
Lebanon: Hezbollah commander killed in Israeli strike
Turkey: Police leak more details of Israel spy network to press

Middle East
Iran: Western nations formally complain over 2020 passenger jet downing
Saudi Arabia: Germany loosens arms export restrictions as reward for Israel stance

US/Canada
US: Loose bolts discovered on Boeing 737 Max 9 planes



International

Humanitarian: Ten major global humanitarian crises highlighted
Independent media outlet The New Humanitarian has highlighted ten of the most pressing humanitarian crises. All of these are located in the Global South.

In Africa, these are: ethnic cleansing and the world's largest displacement crisis caused by the civil war in Sudan, rising insurgencies in the West African Sahel, flooding and conflict in the Horn of Africa, and record displacement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In the Middle East, millions of people are in need of aid in Syria due to conflict and last February's earthquakes, while Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are threatening peace in Yemen.

In Asia, almost 24 million people are in need of assistance in Afghanistan with 6.3 million people experiencing long-term displacement, and in Myanmar 2.5 million people are currently displaced, a figure which is increasing due to conflict between ethnic militia and the country's military government.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, 7.7 million people are in need of aid in Venezuela due to the country's deteriorating economy, while in Haiti over 5.2 million people - over half the population - require aid due to spiralling gang violence.

Analyst Comment: The UN estimates a total of 300 million people across 72 countries will require humanitarian assistance and protection this year. Last year, global response plans were only 40% funded and the donor outlook for this year suggests that figure will decrease.

Source: The New Humanitarian

 

Africa

Africa: Anti-LGBT legislation "surging" across continent
Amnesty International warned LGBT people across Africa are facing a significant attack on their civil rights due to the implementation of discriminatory legislation across Africa last year.

A spokesperson from the rights group warned arbitrary arrests and detentions were becoming "all too common", with authorities treating the mere act of being an LGBT person as a criminal offence that is punishable in some cases by the death penalty.

The rights group called on counties which introduced or increased discriminatory legislation, including Uganda , Kenya, Ghana, Burundi, and Malawi, to repeal or refrain from implementing discriminatory legislation.

Analyst Comment: Consensual same-sex sexual activity is criminalised in a total of 31 African nations.

Source: All Africa

  

Sudan: 18 million facing acute hunger
Fighting in central and eastern Sudan - the country's most important regions for crop production - has been identified as a serious threat to national food availability.

The UN World Food Programme reports almost 18 million Sudanese are facing acute hunger, with five million of those at "emergency levels of hunger". This figure is likely to increase as the country's civil war is preventing farmers from tending to vital crops.

A famine is yet to be declared, but Norwegian Refugee Council country director William Carter warned it was a certainty "unless peace magically descends" on the country.

Analyst Comment: Prior to the war, Sudan already suffered from triple-digit inflation and a third of its population required humanitarian aid. Since the war broke out, 25 million of its citizens - almost half Sudan's population - are now in need of humanitarian aid.

Source: RFI

 

Asia/Oceania

Bangladesh: UK and US say elections were not free and fair
The UK and US have criticised Bangladesh's election over the weekend, which saw incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secure her fourth term in office, as not credible, free, or fair.

Both countries, which have trade and development ties with Bangladesh, have also condemned the violence and arrests of thousands of opposition members which took place on the day of the election.

The elections were boycotted by Bangladesh's main opposition party, the Bangladesh National Party, who described them as a sham. Voter turnout was put at 40% - a low figure which may even have been inflated according to critics. In 2018's elections, voter turnout was over 80%.

Analyst Comment: Human Rights Watch estimates almost 10,000 activists were arrested following an opposition rally in October last year, and accused the government of "filling prisons with the ruling Awami League's political opponents" - an accusation denied by the Awami League.

Source: AP News

  

Bhutan: Voters begin casting ballots amid economic crisis
Voting in Bhutan's presidential and parliamentary elections has begun, with the country's economic crisis playing a major role in campaigning.

The landlocked nation in the eastern Himalayas has a population of around 800,000 people, and lies between India and China who have both been vying for influence in the country.

Bhutan currently has a chronic unemployment problem which is causing a flight of young people looking for higher education or jobs abroad - hindering its economic potential.

Analyst Comment: The elections are the fourth since the country transformed from a traditional monarchy to a parliamentary government in 2008.

In December, the country's King Jigme Khesar announced plans to build a "megacity" in the Indian border town of Gelephu in an attempt to secure investment in the country.

Source: AP News

  

Japan: Death toll from New Year's Day earthquake reaches 161
161 people are now known to have died as a result of the earthquake which struck Japan on New Year's Day, while over 100 people are still missing as snow hampers rescue efforts.

More than 2,000 people are still cut off following the 7.6 magnitude earthquake on the remote Noto Peninsula of Ishikawa region, and authorities are warning of the danger posed by further landslides resulting from recent wet weather.

Around 18,000 homes are still without power in Ishikawa, while over 66,100 are without water. 28,800 people are currently seeking refuge in government shelters, which are also lacking sufficient energy, food, and water supplies.

Source: Al Jazeera

  

Maldives: President seeks investment from China as Indian ties deteriorate
Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has visited an "Invest Maldives" forum in the southern Chinese port city of Fuzhou as relations with long-time diplomatic parter India break down.

After his appearance at the forum, Muizzu's administration released a statement calling China one of the Maldives "closest allies and development partners". He is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping later this week to sign tourism and infrastructure pacts.

Meanwhile, Maldivian government officials described Indian President Narendra Modi as a "clown" after he snorkelled in the Indian archipelago of Lakshadweep - a move viewed as an attempt to encourage tourists away from the Maldives. The insult has seen Indian tourists sharing screenshots of cancelled Maldivian holidays.

Analyst Comment: Muizzu came to power in November after running on an "India Out" ticket. Since coming to office, he has ordered dozens of locally-based Indian military personnel to leave the country.

Source: Reuters

  

South Korea: Dog meat industry to be outlawed from 2027
South Korea's parliament has endorsed legislation which will outlaw the country's declining dog meat industry amid growing concerns over animal rights and the country's international image.

Dog farmers have vowed to file a constitutional appeal and hold demonstrations in protest at the ban on the centuries-old practice, despite surveys showing the majority of people no longer eat dog meat and are in favour of the ban.

The legislation will make the slaughtering, breeding, trade, and sales of dog meat for human consumption illegal from 2027, with contravention punishable by two to three years in prison.

Analyst Comment: While there is no reliable data on the exact size of South Korea's dog meat industry, activists say hundreds of thousands of dogs are killed for their meat in the country every year.

Source: AP News

 

China

China: Head of consulting agency accused of spying for UK
China's Ministry of State Security has accused the head of a foreign consultancy service of passing state secrets to the UK's foreign intelligence service.

It said the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), also known as MI6, had established an "intelligence cooperative relationship" with Huang Moumou in 2015.

The Ministry alleges Moumou was instructed to enter China and provided with intelligence equipment by SIS, and passed them 17 pieces of intelligence including state secrets before he was discovered. Huang's nationality, employer, or current whereabouts is not known.

Analyst Comment: China has publicised several espionage cases in recent months, with 78-year-old American citizen John Shing-wan Leung sentenced to life in prison for spying last May and large numbers of arrests and raids conducted at major consultancy, research, and due diligence firms across the country.

Source: Al Jazeera

  

China: Population decline blamed on Covid-19 and weak economy
A second consecutive year of population decline in China has been blamed on its low confidence in the country's economy and a surge in Covid-19 deaths following its abrupt end to strict lockdowns.

Demographers estimate the number of new births in 2023 fell below the 9.56 million registered in 2022, the seventh year in a row China's birthrate has fallen. Gender inequality and high childcare costs have been named as drivers behind this decline.

Deaths have also risen significantly, tipping the population figure into a second year of decline, with many of the 121,889 Covid-19 deaths China reported to the World Health Organisation likely occurring following the loosening of lockdown restrictions.

Analyst Comment: The reduction in population comes as China is also struggling with a rapidly ageing demographic. The number of citizens aged 60 or over - which currently stands at around 280 million - is predicted to reach 400 million by 2035 - more than the population of the US.

It is almost certain that China's Covid-19 death figures are significantly underreported, with a study by the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center suggesting a figure of 1.87 million excess deaths would be more accurate.

Source: Times of India

  

Europe

Bosnia-Herzegovinia: Concerns over cessation as Serbian enclave to celebrate national day
Bosnia's Serb-majority region of Republika Srpska is to mark an unconstitutional national day today amid international concerns over the increasingly secessionist policies of its leader, Milorad Dodik.

Today is the anniversary of the day the region declared it was a separate entity from Bosnia in 1992 following the breakup of Yugoslavia. The declaration sparked an interethnic war which claimed over 100,000 lives until it was ended by the US-brokered Dayton accords in 1995.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe warned last week that celebrating the day "directly contravenes the constitutions of both Bosnia-Herzegovina and of Republika Srpska", and that it amounted to an "act of discrimination".

Analyst Comment: Dodik has close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has consistently attempted to wear down the central Bosnian government's authority over the region.

Yesterday, the US flew two F-16 fighter jets and a tanker aircraft over the country to reinforce its support of Bosnia's territorial integrity.

Source: Radio Free Europe

  

France: Prime Minister resigns ahead of expected reshuffle
France's Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne has resigned from office in a move thought to have been pushed for by President Emmanuel Macron ahead of an expected reshuffle of his government

Macron is thought to have requested her resignation and be conducting the reshuffle following recent questions over the ability of Borne's government to pass future major bills after she was forced to make a deal with the conservative Republicans party to pass contentious immigration legislation last month.

Political observers suggest that Macron wants to get his new government ready for June's European Elections, and avoid a potential "lame-duck" status ahead of his constitutionally-prescribed  departure as president in 2027.

Analyst Comment: The French prime minister is appointed by the president and is accountable to parliament under the French political system. They are responsible for domestic policy and coordinating ministers, while the president is in charge of foreign policy, European affairs, and defence.

Education Minister Gabriel Attal, 34, has been highlighted as a favourite to replace Borne by French media outlets.

Source: AP News

  

Ukraine: German chancellor criticises lack of EU support
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the majority of EU nations were not delivering enough weapons to Ukraine in support of its fight against Russia's invasion, and called for them to increase their efforts.

He said that in light of further US military support for Ukraine being stalled in Congress, European nations need to step up and asserted that Germany would continue to support Kyiv for as long as necessary.

He added that he had asked the EU to check with individual member states what they were planning to donate, and said he was confident the bloc would approve a proposed 50 billion euro package for Ukraine at an upcoming emergency summit on 1 February despite opposition from Hungary blocking it in the past.

Analyst Comment: Germany was criticised in the initial phase of Russia's invasion for failing to provide sufficient support for Ukraine, but is now one of the top providers of both financial and military aid. Last year it agreed to double its military aid for Ukraine to 8 billion euros in 2024.

Source: Reuters

  

Israel/Hamas Conflict

Lebanon: Hezbollah commander killed in Israeli strike
A commander of Hezbollah's elite Razwan forces has been killed alongside another militant in an Israeli strike on their car in southern Lebanon, 6km from the Israeli border.

Wissam Tawil is the most senior Hezbollah commander killed since  conflict broke out in October last year, and is believed to have played a leading role in directing Hezbollah operations against Israel.

Israel has made no comment on Tawil's death - which commentators are suggesting will be a significant loss to Hezbollah given his experience on deployments with the militant group to Syria and Iraq - as yet.

Analyst Comment: Over 130 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in recent hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel, making them the deadliest conflict between the two parties since they went to war in 2006.

Hezbollah fired a volley of 62 rockets at an Israeli observation post over the weekend in what it described as a "preliminary response" to the assassination of senior Hamas leader Saleh al-Aurouri on Lebanese soil last week.

Source: Reuters

  

Turkey: Police leak more details of Israel spy network to press
Turkish police have said an Israeli intelligence network they disrupted last week was collecting intelligence on Palestinian nationals and other individuals linked to Hamas on a large scale.

Testimonies to police by some of the 34 people arrested in raids on the network across Turkey last week revealed that personal information on Palestinians was being collected including photos of stores associated with them and information about their places of residence.

Information was reportedly being passed on to Israeli intelligence agencies as recently as the aftermath of the 7 October Hamas incursion into Israel. One suspect who is still at large is believed to be a former bodyguard of Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal.

Analyst Comment: Last week's arrests were the fourth Turkish counterintelligence operation against Individuals suspected of working for Israeli intelligence services since 2021.

Turkish intelligence officials believe there are two tranches of agents working for Israel in Turkey, one which is given routine tasks and another which is used operationally.

Source: Middle East Eye

 

Middle East

Iran: Western nations formally complain over 2020 passenger jet downing
Canada, the UK, Sweden, and Ukraine have formally complained to the UN aviation council as part of their attempt to have Iran held accountable for the downing of a passenger airliner in January 2020.

The incident saw 176 people killed, the majority of whom were citizens of the four plaintiffs who today said they had jointly initiated proceedings against Iran for "using weapons against a civil aircraft in flight".

Iran has previously admitted its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps accidentally shot down the Boeing 737 shortly after it took off from Tehran en route to Ukraine due to an error by an air defence operator.

Source: Reuters

  

Saudi Arabia: Germany loosens arms export restrictions as reward for Israel stance
Germany is to again allow the sale of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets to Saudi Arabia after loosening restrictions it imposed in relation to the Yemen civil war and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

It had already loosened some restrictions on exports to Saudi Arabia after the war in Ukraine forced it to rethink its policies towards the Kingdom (due to energy concerns) and supplying weapons to active conflict zones.

In a further loosening of restrictions, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Germany would no longer oppose the sale of 48 Eurofighters due to Saudi Arabia's "constructive position (with) regards to Israel" during a visit to the Jewish nation on Sunday.

Analyst Comment: Germany placed restrictions on arms sales to countries involved in the Yemen war in 2018 with the caveat that certain materials would still be available to Saudi Arabia. However, it enforced a complete ban following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey later that year.

Saudi Arabia already owns 72 Eurofighters which it purchased in 2007 at a cost of $5.6bn.

Source: Middle East Eye

 

US/Canada

US: Loose bolts discovered on Boeing 737 Max 9 planes
United and Alaska Airlines have discovered loose parts on their Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes after inspections conducted in response to an incident in which a panel blew off a MAX 9 on 5 January.

The US Federal Aviation Administration grounded 171 of the twin-engine, single aisle planes, which are commonly used for US domestic flights, and ordered safety inspections be carried out on them following the incident which occurred in the state of Oregon.

Following the inspections, Alaska Airlines, which operates 65 MAX 9s, reported "loose hardware" on some of them, and cancelled over 100 flights as a result. United also reported that bolts needed tightening on some of its 79 MAX 9s.

Analyst Comment: Boeing recommended carrying out inspections on its 737 MAX planes last month, citing a "possibly loose bolt" in the rudder control system.

Other carriers operating the MAX 9 include Copa Airlines, Aeromexico, Turkish Airlines, Icelandair, Lion Air, Flydubai, and Kazakh carrier SCAT.

Source: Pax News

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