MS Risk Blog

Israel: A Week of Turmoil

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

On Monday, Gaza witnessed the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war. Tens of thousands protested and clashes erupted along the Gaza border against the US transfer of its embassy to Jerusalem. The “March of Return,” as Palestinians are calling the protest campaign that began in March, has intended by its creators to publicize global awareness that about two-thirds of Gaza residents are considered Palestinian refugees.

For seven weeks, protesters have gathered on the Gaza side of the border with Israel, with scores of deaths over that period before the violence ratcheted this week as 58 Palestinians were killed and more than 2700 seriously injured.  The Israeli troops have used live ammunition on the demonstrators as Israel considers attempts by Palestinian protesters to approach the fence a threat to its sovereignty and has framed its responses to these protests as a lawful defense of the Israeli border. The Israeli authorities have dropped leaflets over Gaza warning Palestinians to not approach the fence. However, the military maintains it is only targeting those instigating violence and has sought to use nonlethal deterrents — including drones that drop tear gas — to counter the protests. Hamas has been accused of exploiting the “March of Return”, whilst Israel has said a significant number of those killed were members of various militant Islamist factions in the Gaza Strip, using the mass demonstrations as cover to infiltrate into Israel and carry out possible terrorist attacks. Israel has faced international condemnation over the deaths, from the UN, UK, France, Russia and others. “I don’t know of any army that would do anything differently if you had to protect your border against people who say, ‘We’re going to destroy you, and we’re going to flood into your country,’” Mr. Netanyahu stated. Other Israelis have said that if thousands of angry Palestinians breached the Gaza fence, the outcome would be far bloodier. Doctors without borders said that they are overwhelmed by the Gaza carnage: “In one of the hospitals where we are working, the chaotic situation is comparable to what we observed after the bombings of the 2014 war, with a huge influx of injured people in a few hours, overwhelming the medical staff.”

The Palestinians and United Nations human rights officials say Israel remains an occupying power in Gaza, making it subject to certain obligations to protect civilians under international law, because the Israelis exert effective control over most of Gaza’s land, air and sea borders. Israel has rejected that argument, asserting that it voluntarily departed Gaza 13 years ago. While Egypt could theoretically do more to ease the travails of Gaza’s population, analysts say that, “Egypt sees it as political quicksand.” Tensions between Israel and Egypt are rising, with President Sisi warning for regional instability, but there have been reports that Egypt has managed to restore calm in Gaza as protests have dropped off over the past hours, by pressurising Hamas. Hamas has rejected these reports and said that they will continue the protests increasing concerns over the stability in Israel while back in February they had stated that a likelihood of war with Israel is possible. Israel on Wednesday welcomed another embassy in Jerusalem just two days after the landmark move by the United States, even as the diplomatic fallout over Gaza bloodshed intensified with Israel and Turkey trading bitter recriminations. Leading the charge was Turkey, which on Tuesday expelled Israel’s ambassador and consul. Israel retaliated with its own expulsions of top Turkish diplomats.

Turmoil in Israel is continuing, with fears over a war likelihood between Iran and Israel growing the past few days. Israel and Iran lurched closer to an all out war on Thursday after the Israeli military struck the majority of Iran’s bases in Syria in response to what it said was a Iranian rocket barrage fired at the Golan Heights. Israeli carried out its largest wave of airstrikes in Syria since the 1973 war, striking around 50 Iranian military bases, supply depots, and intelligence sites as well as Syrian regime air defence batteries, the Israeli military said. The wave of strikes was in response to a barrage of 20 rockets which Israel said were fired by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard towards the Golan, a mountainous region that Israel annexed from Syria after capturing it in 1967. Israel has said repeatedly it will not allow Iran to build up a permanent military presence in Syria and is prepared to go to war to stop it. Nasrallah said Hezbollah and its allies Iran and Syria “will respond at the appropriate time and place and with the appropriate method” to Israel’s Syria raids, while adding, “This landmark rocket attack has launched a new phase.” He warned “the next response would be in the heart of occupied Palestine should any red lines be crossed.”

While tensions are rising in the region, the UK government issued a travel warning amid the Gaza protests and the direct attacks between Israel and Syria, advising people to avoid travelling to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and confirming that there is an increased risk of instability in the region with the likelihood of terrorist attacks very high. With the Gaza protests bound to escalate further, and amid the exchange of attacks between Israel and Iran, Israel is entering a quagmire. Analysts have said that we are now facing a new reality where Iran is attacking Israel directly and trying to harm Israel’s sovereignty and territories.

DRC Ebola Outbreak Confirmed by Officials

Posted on in Democratic Republic of the Congo title_rule

The Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed the first Ebola death, indicating that 11 people have been confirmed to be infected.  The WHO is reporting that at least 17 people have died since inhabitants of the village of Ikon Impenge, near the northwestern town of Bikoro in the country’s northwest began showing symptoms resembling Ebola in December 2017.  Those cases however were never confirmed through testing.
While the DRC has had a long experience with Ebola, and its remote gregraphy has meant that outbreaks have often been localized and relatively easy to isolate, Ikoko Impenge and Bikoro are located not far from the banks of the Congo River, which is a major artery for trade and transport upstream from the capital Kinshasaa.  Also the Republic of Congo is located just on the other side of the river.
This outbreak has already prompted concerns regionally, with Nigeria’s immigration service announcing that it has increased screening tests at airports and other entry points as a precautionary measure, a move similar to the measures that were implemented during the Ebola epidemic in 2013.  Guinea and Gambia have also heightened screening measures along their borders, and other countries may follow with similar measures in the coming days.

Security Advisory – Sahel Region (10 May 2018)

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

Security Advisory:  Sahel Region

See on the right-hand side a social media post attributed to al-Qaeda in the Sahel region.  English translation is below:

 

English Translation:  Al Qaeda threatens to attack companies established in the Sahel region. In a communique published on May 8, the terrorist group accuses Western societies of plundering the resources of this region and announces that they have become targets of attack.

 

Security Summary

MS Risk will be evaluating the authenticity of this posting and the immediate implications (if any) in the coming days.

Potential perils include risk of ambush, kidnapping of expat or local national employees, theft of vehicles or fuel and other consumables, or vandalism.  Previous attacks have included attempts at indirect fire (a crude rocket attack made towards a mine in Jan 2017 which failed), the use of vehicle borne IEDs (car bombs) which appeared to feature in the Ouagadougou attack in March of this year and marauding gunmen attacks such as has been seen at hotels, restaurants and embassies in several countries in the last three years.  Furthermore, IED usage has increased in Mali and there are strong indications of new skill sets coming into the Sahel region.  This is indicative of skills transfer from other theatres of unrest, such as Libya and Syria.  There is a concern of growing sophistication of the IED threat in Mali and we are closely monitoring the expanding risk of this technology into the greater Sahel region.

The March 2018 terrorist incidents in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, which saw two high profile targets attacked in broad daylight, demonstrates that militant groups operating in the Sahel region have the capabilities to carry out complex attacks.  This highlights the need to take stock of security and risk exposures.  It will be prudent for companies with a high profile in the Sahel region to watch for suspicious activity: surveillance, unknown persons loitering near property, signs of trespass or forced entry to premises, and odd contact in various forms and guises.  Companies should take this moment to assess their own exposures and consider procedures for night operations, road movements, journey management and security routines at residences, offices and depots.  We recommend a review of crisis management plans and escalation procedures.

MS Risk can assist corporates and NGOs as needed throughout the region.  Contact us for further assistance.

Contact Information

Contact:  info@msrisk.com

Regional Manager West Africa:  Philip Whitehead (Email: pip.whitehead@msrisk.com Mobile: +226.64.81.95.58)

Violence Erupts in Nicaragua

Posted on in Nicaragua title_rule

Nicaragua is currently embroiled in what is being coined as the worst political crisis in the country’s history. Violence has erupted in the Latin American nation in response to planned social security reforms by President Daniel Ortega’s government. These reforms would mean increases to income and payroll taxes, as well as taking 5% of citizen’s pension checks for medical care.

On April 17, hundreds of elderly citizens, activists and others descended upon Managua in protests of the planned reform, which resulted in clashes between protestors and pro-government groups.

After 5 days of back to back protests President Ortega, in a televised speech, announced that he would be revoking the legislation. He stated that “we are revoking, cancelling, [and] putting to the side the resolution”. Despite this announcement protests have continued in the country, with many protestors instead being students and lecturers after protests expanded to cover various other anti-government grievances aside from the social security reform. The police crackdown on protestors has led to vast numbers of students and lecturers being detained, with Nicaragua’s Permanent Commission for Human Rights reporting over 120 had been arrested. Detainees have since been released, however there are unconfirmed reports that detainees were subjected to beatings and torture whilst in custody.

Ortega has also invited Nicaragua’s bishops and Cardinal Leopoldo Jose Brenes to be involved in peace keeping mediation talks between the government and the country’s leading business organisation in an attempt to resolve the mass unrest. Having been called by the Catholic Church, tens of thousands marched for what they are calling ‘Peace and Justice’ in attempts to ease tensions in the country. The day before, Nicaragua’s private business sector also organised a march that attracted similar numbers calling for an end to the unrest and an end to the repression by Ortega’s government.

On April 24, in light of the mass unrest, the US has decided to withdraw embassy staff from the country. A statement from the White House said “The repugnant political violence by police and pro-government thugs against the people of Nicaragua, particularly university students, has shocked the democratic international community”. On the same day the UN human rights office in Geneva called for an investigation into the violence to be carried out, claiming they suspect the killings by the police to be ‘unlawful’.

On 27 April, after 9 days of continuous protests and looting, Nicaragua’s Permanent Commission for Human Rights has reported that 63 people have died in the violence. Furthermore, 15 people are still missing and more than 160 have been injured by gunfire alone with 9 of these being in critical condition. The government has neither confirmed nor denied these figures as yet. Ortega is blaming right-wing agitators for the violence stating they have tried to discredit his government by infiltrating the protests. As we head into May, the unrest shows no signs of slowing down.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU)

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

More than ten percent of the world’s population makes their living from fisheries and aquaculture and at least half of mankind’s source of protein is from fish and seafood. This proportion in Asia is even higher.

National law and rules of intergovernmental regional fisheries management organisations (RFMO) regulate fisheries. Illegal fishing means fishing without a licence, using destructive practices or fishing in prohibited areas, to name a few. Unreported fishing stands for catches not reported to national or international authorities. Unregulated fishing usually refers to vessels operating in violation of national law or RFMO’s regulations.

IUU operators try to register their vessels in countries which they do not have a genuine connection with, or which lack strict supervision, like Cambodia. Illegal fishers usually change the flag they are travelling under to another country’s, which is called flag hopping.

Another practice to avoid regulations is to transfer their catch to another ship while on the sea, not in a port. At-sea transhipments are legitimate practices and not a subject of controls when a ship is at sea. It also makes laundering illegally caught fish clean. Illegal operators also use ports of convenience known for poor inspections. Unreported fishing leads to overfishing, which affects most of the Asian countries, especially Cambodia and the Philippines. Destructive fishing also has a huge and long-term effect on our ecosystem. The use of chemicals to poison fishes or dynamites to destroy their internal organs also damages reefs and natural habitats. Bottom trawling and ghost fishing are also illegal, yet still widely used in Asia. The Spratley and Paracel Islands are highly threatened by these, not to mention issues such as reef building and the claiming sovereignty by more than one Asian nation.

One of the many reasons behind the unsuccessful fight against IUU is the lack of national capability. Some of the countries have huge territorial waters to patrol. Think about Indonesia which has less than 100 coastguard vessels, yet it has 6 million km² to monitor, which is double the size of the Mediterranean Sea. The previously mentioned lack of clearly defined maritime borders and corruption are also among the reasons IUU fishing is a serious issue. An illegal fishing vessel was detained in Indonesia in April, which turned out to be carrying a 30 km long gillnet. Every now and then there are news regarding arrests of illegal fishermen, but it is only a drop in the sea.

The Asia Foundation in cooperation with the USA, China and Thailand held an ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok in March 2018. The participants agreed that an inclusive and synchronised legal framework is needed to regulate fisheries policies in the region. Regional powers should share their best practices and harmonise their plans into a common regional practice. Most of the crimes committed in the fishing industry are transnational, therefore joint monitoring, surveillance and control is crucial to fight effectively against criminals. Information-sharing between agencies and authorities will further improve sustainable fisheries management. Coordinated sea-farming can lead to sustainable ecosystems. Introducing small-scale fishery practices to local communities would mean a stable and long-term livelihood. The participants agreed that exploring further options for collaboration at national and local level will contribute to identifying goals and next steps for sustainable fisheries management.