This week was characterized by relatively static levels of political violence and protests in most countries in the Middle East, including in Gaza where Great Return March demonstrations were again held this past Friday. Meanwhile, Syria saw an end to fighting in Eastern Ghouta as well as a highly-publicized international response by America, British, and French forces to the chemical weapons attack in Duma city last weekend.
In Iran, the number of riots and protests was almost double what it was last week. These events were primarily demonstrations against water shortages and unemployment, only a few of which resulted in clashes or arrests.
In Iraq, Islamic State (IS) militants were responsible for an increased number of civilian fatalities this week. These attacks seemed to target government officials in particular, including members of the electoral commission, a judge, and leaders of the Iraqi Turkmen community.
Meanwhile, the weekly number of protests in Israel was larger than normal, primarily due to a series of coordinated demonstrations calling for the release of an Israeli man named Avera Mengistu who is believed to be detained in Gaza by Hamas.
In Palestine, “Great Return March” demonstrations were held for the third week in a row on Friday, April 13. Only one fatality was reported in connection with this week’s demonstrations, which is down from at least 10 the week before, and at least 19 the week before that.
Looking to the conflict in Yemen, a number of suspected Houthi missiles were shot down by Saudi missile-defence systems along the border. A number of demonstrations were also reported across Yemen following the reported rape of a Tihama girl in Hudayda by a Sudanese soldier fighting with United Arab Emirates (UAE) backed Security Belt forces, while clashes reportedly broke out between anti-Houthi forces over the issue. Elsewhere in the country, pro-Hadi forces claimed to have entirely captured Midi city after three days of clashes with Houthi militias, while in-fighting between anti-Houthi forces occurred in Ad Dali city, with Security Belt forces capturing it from pro-Hadi militias.
However, the most notable events of last week occurred in Syria. On April 13, American, British and French airstrikes were reported to have hit several targets in rural Damascus and Homs which were associated with the manufacture and/or storage of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. These strikes came in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack in Duma city on April 7. This past week also saw the implementation of the negotiated surrender of Duma city by Jaysh al-Islam, with the group’s fighters, their families, and other civilians evacuated north to areas held by Operation Olive-Branch. Following the evacuation, Russian military police entered Duma city alongside the security forces of the Syrian government, ending effective rebel control of the Eastern Ghouta area of Damascus. Clashes between Syrian government forces and IS militants were also reported around Deir-ez-Zor and in the Homs countryside, while the Syrian military forces also reportedly began an offensive to recapture areas south of Damascus from IS.