After declaring a state of war with Morocco over the "invasion" of Western Sahara, the Polisario Front claims to have already caused "fatal casualties" on the second day of bombing against the Moroccan army.
The bombings are taking place at the separation wall in the desert in response to the attack launched by Morocco on Friday at the Guerguerat border crossing, which links Mauritania with the occupied territories of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara.
According to a communiqué classified as "War Party Number 2", units of the Saharawi People's Liberation Army (ELPS) "attacked enemy bases, support and supply points, and dealt heavy blows to the Moroccan army", which suffered "fatal casualties".
According to the Efe agency, the communiqué added that "the ELPS bombed base 13 of platoon 67 in the Bagari sector at night. The sectors of Mahbes and El Garguerat were also punished by fire from the Saharawi army. As a result, the enemy has suffered fatal casualties among its ranks," he added, without offering other details.
According to 'The Sahrawi Confidential', the number of military casualties amounts to four.
On 13 Friday, Rabat's forces were deployed in the border area of El Guerguerat. On Saturday, the secretary general of the Polisario Front and president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Bahim Ghali, announced the end of the ceasefire signed with Morocco in 1991 and blamed the country for the consequences of his attack on Friday.
In a statement, Ghali also decreed a state of war throughout the territory, imposed a curfew and stressed that from this moment the Saharawi armed forces assume full control of national security.
In this sense, the decree orders the General Staff of the Saharawi People's Liberation Army to "put in place all measures related to the implementation of the requirements of this decree within its competence and authority".
The tension between Rabat and Polisario grew since 21 October when a group of Saharawi activists reached the Guerguerat border crossing, which links Mauritania with the territories occupied by Morocco in the former colony of Western Sahara, and blocked passage along this commercial route overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, which has grown in importance in recent years.
From Rabat, they state that the situation in Guerguarate is "calm", following the operation by the Royal Armed Forces which "allowed the expulsion of the 'Polisario' militias from the crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania", according to the Moroccan news agency MAP.
"Morocco, having observed the great moderation in the face of the multiple provocations of the 'Polisario' militias in the buffer zone, launched on Friday morning an operation to put an end to this unacceptable blockade of civil and commercial traffic between Morocco and Mauritania," says MAP.
The version from Rabat is that the armed militia of the Polisario opened fire on the Moroccan armed forces, "which retaliated by forcing the elements of the separatist gang to flee, without registering any casualties," the state agency assures.
The "Polisario" militias entered the buffer zone on 21 October, where they carried out acts of banditry, blocked the movement of people and goods on this road and continuously harassed MINURSO military observers.
In addition, according to sources from the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dozens of trucks of goods crossed the border from the south and north of the border post, informed Efe on Saturday.
These trucks have been blocked on both borders since 21 October after a group of Polisario Front demonstrators blocked the road in this area and prevented all kinds of passenger and goods traffic from passing through.
The problem of Western Sahara is an old issue, exactly 45 years old.
The question of the status of Western Sahara, which the United Nations still considers a "non-self-governing territory" in the absence of a definitive solution, has pitted Morocco against the pro-independence supporters of the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria, for decades. Polisario is demanding a referendum on self-determination, planned by the UN, while Morocco, which controls over two-thirds of this vast desert territory, is proposing an autonomy plan under its sovereignty.
In September 1991 a ceasefire was signed under the aegis of the UN, after 16 years of war. Since then, the planned referendum has been repeatedly postponed owing to a dispute between Rabat and Polisario over the composition of the electorate and the status of the territory. The UN-led negotiations involving Morocco, Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania have been suspended for several months.
Since 20 October, several elements arranged by Polisario have blocked civilian and commercial land traffic between Morocco and Mauritania by deploying improvised roadblocks between the El Guerguerate border post and the PK-55, where Mauritanian border guards are stationed. A no-man's-land of a few kilometres, considered a buffer zone by the 1991 ceasefire agreements. But while Polisario's incursions into this area have been recurrent in recent years, generally on the eve of UN resolutions, the makeshift camp appears to be becoming permanent this autumn.
In October, Guterres urged the Polisario to leave the city and avoid an escalation in the region.