The Year in Review, 2023: Conflicts and war that made headlines

An Israeli army tank rolls past debris of buildings in the Gaza Strip amid ongoing battles with Hamas. Picture: Jack Guez/ AFP

An Israeli army tank rolls past debris of buildings in the Gaza Strip amid ongoing battles with Hamas. Picture: Jack Guez/ AFP

Published Dec 30, 2023


The world has seen a total of 183 regional conflicts this year. This is the highest in nearly three decades, according to a Bloomberg report.

While many celebrate their holidays and festive season, there are people in war-torn and conflict-ridden countries that can’t say the same thing. We take a look at some of the conflicts and wars that dominated news headlines this year.

Russia-Ukraine war

The year started off with tensions already high in the eastern European region as the war between Ukraine and Russia continued. The war is currently in its 667th day.

On February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine from the north, east, and south. According to Putin, the “special military operation” is aimed at what he called the “demilitarisation” and “denazification” of the country to protect ethnic Russians and prevent Kyiv’s Nato membership.

Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said Russia had launched a total of 7,400 missiles and 3,700 Shahed attack drones on the country since it began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

Israel-Hamas war

As Israel continues to launch attacks on the Palestinian people in a bid to “eliminate Hamas”, the world looks to the US, which vetoed a United Nations resolution on December 22 backed by almost all other Security Council members and dozens of other nations demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.

While the Israel war on Hamas is going into its second month (77 days), it is worth noting that the plight of Palestinians has been going on for several decades.

Since the start of the retaliation to Hamas’ attack on Israeli civilians on October 7, over 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes and attacks, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and 1,200 Israelis have been killed, according to Israeli officials.

Since the start of the escalation of the war, power and electricity have been cut off several times, and two temporary humanitarian pauses have been implemented.

Houthi and US

In the aftermath of the Hamas attack on Israel on October, the conflict escalated, involving the US and various factions in the Middle East.

Responding to the crisis, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin deployed the Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean. The USS Carney, part of the group, intercepted cruise missiles and drones launched by Houthi militants in Yemen on October 19.

This marked the beginning of a series of incidents, including the seizure of a cargo ship by Houthi rebels on November 19 and multiple drone attacks on November 22.

On December 3, anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired from Yemen by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, targeting Carney and civilian-owned commercial ships in international waters. The US Central Command attributed the attacks to Iran. In response, the US announced sanctions on individuals and entities supporting the Houthis on December 7.

Amid ongoing hostilities, Carney shot down a barrage of drones on December 16, and on December 19, Secretary Austin announced a coalition of 10 nations to counter attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. Greece joined the coalition on December 21, as tensions continued to shape the complex narrative of the 2023 conflict.


The war in Sudan erupted on April 15, 2023, during Ramadaan, between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) under Hemedti, both factions of Sudan's military government.

The conflict centred around Khartoum and Darfur, resulting in 10,000 deaths, up to 12,000 injuries, and widespread displacement.

Attacks on government sites initiated the war, leading to the division of Khartoum and Omdurman between the rival factions. Despite international attempts to negotiate a ceasefire, the Treaty of Jeddah proved ineffective.

A subsequent stalemate saw rebel groups, including the Minni Minnawi and Mustafa Tambour factions of the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, join the conflict on the side of the SAF. In contrast, the Tamazuj movement aligned with the RSF, and the Abdelaziz al-Hilu faction of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North attacked SAF positions in the south.

By October, momentum shifted towards the RSF, with victories in Darfur and gains in Khartoum State and Kordofan. Ongoing negotiations yielded little, while external countries provided support for either al-Burhan or Hemedti. The war's backdrop includes Sudan's history of conflicts marked by foreign invasions, ethnic tensions, religious disputes, and resource conflicts, including two civil wars and a Darfur conflict since independence in 1956, involving frequent military coups and intermittent democratic rule.


In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a dire humanitarian crisis unfolds as escalating violence and conflict displace millions of people, particularly in the east. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 6.9 million individuals have been displaced, with the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, and Tanganyika bearing the brunt.

The recent surge in violence stems from renewed clashes between Tutsi-led M23 rebels and government-aligned militias in North Kivu, displacing up to one million people in that province alone.

IOM's chief of mission in the DRC, Fabien Sambussy, notes that the conflict's recent escalation has rapidly uprooted people on an unprecedented scale. Over two-thirds of the displaced, totalling 4.8 million, now live with host families. President Felix Tshisekedi has expressed urgency in fast-tracking the withdrawal of Monusco, a United Nations peacekeeping mission, citing its failure to address rebellions and armed conflicts over the past 25 years.

Despite Monusco's mandate to protect civilians and support peace efforts, its presence has reportedly contributed to protests and violence. Tshisekedi aims to begin discussions for an accelerated withdrawal, moving from December 2024 to December 2023, to address the worsening crisis.