Over the last two weeks a number of disparate trends have appeared in countries across the region, including in Iran, Iraq, Israel, and Palestine in particular, while pro-government forces in Syria and Yemen continued to make gains in their respective conflicts.
In Iran, at least a dozen of demonstrations have been reported over the past two weeks by Arab Iranians after a children’s program on the state-run TV2 channel left Arabs out of a segment on minorities in Iran (Ottawa Citizen, April 6, 2018). A number of these demonstrations turned violent, with rioters reportedly clashing with police (Iran HRM, March 30, 2018).
In Iraq, there was a slight rise in the number of reported fatalities attributed to battles and bombings involving Turkish forces and PKK militants despite a fall in the total number of events. Between March 11-24th, there were 43 reported fatalities in 17 events involving an interaction between these two groups, compared to 47 reported fatalities in only 10 events of the same type recorded between March 25-April 07th.
In Israel, the number of riots and protests events rose over the last week due to demonstrations held by Haredim over conscription; by Israelis protesting the excessive use of force in Gaza; and by activists and asylum seekers over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to scrap an agreement with the United Nations to resettle thousands of African asylum seekers in Western countries (The Washington Post, April 3, 2018).
In Palestine, events in Gaza have been dominated by the “Great Return March” demonstrations which have involved thousands of Palestinians setting up protest camps along the border with Israel. Although a number of these events have reportedly involved clashes between Israeli forces and demonstrators, at least 29 demonstrators have been reported killed since the beginning of the demonstrations on March 30, 2018, including fatalities from injuries sustained during the demonstrations (Al-Araby, April 6, 2018; NBC News, April 7, 2018).
Meanwhile in Syria, large scale evacuations from the Eastern Ghouta neighbourhood of Damascus have taken place over the past two weeks under agreements between the Al-Rahman Corps and Russian forces. A similar agreement between Jaysh al-Islam and Russian forces– covering Duma City specifically– broke down this week, leading to renewed bombardments by Syrian government and allied forces, resulting in high numbers of civilian fatalities. This also includes an alleged chemical attack by Syrian government forces on the area. Syrian government forces have also renewed attacks on areas of Dar’a, Idleb, and Hama governorates. Turkish President Reccip Tayyip Erdogan also claimed in a recent speech that his country had started preparations to capture the Ayn al-Arab, Tal Abyad, Rasulayn, and Hasak areas in Syria (Daily Sabah, March 30, 2018), which could bring Turkish military forces into conflict with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Advances by pro-Hadi government forces have likewise been reported in Yemen following fighting with Houthis, in particular in the the border areas between Lahij and Taiz governorates. This has also coincided with a number of ballistic missile attacks launched by Houthis against Saudi Arabian cities over the past two weeks.