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In a communique published 13 November, the Etat-Major of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces (FAR) reported that members of the Polisario opened fire on Moroccan soldiers who retaliated during a Moroccan military operation in the Western Sahara. No death toll has been reported. According to the same source, the Moroccan military operation had been launched following the blockade by militiamen of the Polisario on the road linking Morocco to Mauritania. The militiamen of the Polisario fled the scene in direction of the south and east. The border of Guergarate is now secured, ‘allowing the traffic of goods and people in the passage of the 2 border checkpoints’.

The road traffic between Western Sahara and Mauritania started again 14 November, according to the official Moroccan press agency (MAP). The reopening of the border has also been confirmed by Mauritanian and Moroccan security sources.

The Polisario affirmed for his part that the operation is an ‘aggression’ and that ‘war has begun’.

The separatists said fighting’s are still ongoing and that the ‘ceasefire was now part of the past’, according to declarations of the Sahrawi Defence ministry to the official Algerian press agency (APS). He also assured that the ‘Sahrawi Liberation Army had won many important victory and cause human losses as well as material losses to the Moroccan occupant’. In a communique of the Sahrawi Defence ministry, it is reported that the ‘areas of Mahbès and Guergerat had been targeted by mortar shells firing and machine gun on the Moroccan defence wall in the regions of Mahbès, Haouza, Aousserd and Farsia. This would have cause important human and material losses to the Moroccan side’. The General Secretary of the Polisario Front and president of the self-claimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) declared the ‘state of war’ and decreed the ‘resumption of armed actions to protect the inalienable rights of the Sahrawi people’.

Another leader of the SADR reported 15 November that the Polisario had called ‘thousands of volunteers’ to join the armed forces of the Polisario Front.

We remind you that the Polisario Front announced the end of the ceasefire signed under the aegis of the UN in the disputed Western Sahara in 1991. The announcement was made in reaction to a military operation launched by morocco in the Guerguerat buffer zone, near Mauritania, in the night of 12 to 13 November. According to the Moroccan authorities, the intervention is reportedly meant to ‘put a stop to the blockade’ in the area, which the ‘Polisario and its militias’ are believed to have entered 21 October and are said to have been “carrying out acts of banditry, blocking traffic and continually harassing MINURSO military observers”, of the UN mediation force. Around 200 truck drivers are believed to have been blocked at the Guerguerat border crossing ever since (see our previous alerts).

In view of the latest statements and the volatile nature of the situation, the possibility that the tension could escalate should be expected in the coming days, although no return to fighting is expected in the short term. Violence should not be ruled out. Please monitor the development of the situation.

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