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The tea was highly caffeinated, but the mood was dour. As the night wore on, the sound of artillery could be heard in the distance. Fifteen or so Sahrawi soldiers had set up camp under one of the rare thickets in the Western Saharan desert. The youngest among them, looking no older than teenagers, scoured the sky for surveillance drones. “War is the only way,” said one. A little before midnight a radio operator received news that Moroccan batteries were opening fire. Then came the thunderous echo of falling missiles.
The decades-old conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front, a nationalist movement seeking independence for Western Sahara, is heating up again. Over the past year Morocco has logged with the un more than 1,000 “incidents” of Polisario firing on its units, though Polisario says it has staged more attacks than that. The fighting has mostly involved artillery duels along the world’s longest frontline—a 2,700km (1,700-mile) wall of sand, or berm, built by the Moroccan army and sown with mines. Polisario commanders say a dozen of their soldiers and as many civilians have been killed. Morocco officially denies that the war has resumed.