Last week in the Middle East, Houthi forces made significant gains against pro-Hadi forces in Marib governorate in Yemen, while National Resistance forces advanced against Houthi forces in Taizz governorate. Sustained Saudi-led coalition airstrikes continue on Sanaa, while Houthi forces resumed their aerial attacks on Saudi Arabia. In Syria, a Global Coalition strike targeted and killed a former Hurras Al Deen member in Idleb and wounded a civilian family of seven. Meanwhile, in a rare occurrence, an Israeli airstrike targeted an Iran-linked weapons shipment in the port of Lattakia. In Iraq, unidentified militants detonated an IED near a hospital in Basrah city, leading to fatalities. In Israel and Palestine, two more lone-wolf attacks by Palestinian assailants have Israeli security forces on high alert as tensions continue to escalate.
In Yemen, Houthi forces made significant advances against pro-Hadi forces in Marib governorate last week, taking control of the eastern part of the Balaq mountain range, south of Marib city. Houthi forces also moved towards Al Falaj checkpoint along the road passing through the mountain range to Marib city. The Hadi minister of information reported that a Hezbollah commander was killed during fighting in the area (Twitter @ERYANIM, 9 December 2021). Although Hezbollah operatives are known to be present alongside Houthi forces in Yemen (Sanaa Center, 29 May 2017), direct involvement in political violence is rare. The last time ACLED records Hezbollah engagement in political violence in Yemen was in May 2021. Amid the escalation, Houthi forces also launched several ballistic missiles targeting Marib city and its surrounding suburbs, with one strike hitting a displacement camp and injuring several civilians. Clashes between pro-Hadi and Houthi forces also picked up along the Al Alam front in Al Jawf governorate last week, contributing to a 109% spike in violence last week relative to the past month in the governorate (see ACLED’s Early Warning Research Hub for more).
In Hodeidah governorate, clashes between Houthi and National Resistance forces decreased last week for the third consecutive week, while political violence in neighboring Taizz governorate reached its highest levels since March 2021. The bulk of the fighting between Houthi and National Resistance forces has now shifted to the north of Maqbanah district in Taizz, where National Resistance forces made territorial gains last week. As the result of Houthi forces mining areas before retreating, landmine incidents against civilians have increased in both Taizz and Hodeidah over the past two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition increased airstrikes on Sanaa city and neighboring districts last week, contributing to a 122% spike in violence last week relative to the past month in Amanat al Asimah governorate (see ACLED’s Early Warning Research Hub for more). ACLED records the largest number of airstrike events on the Yemeni capital last week since November 2017.1 Note that one airstrike event can include several airstrikes and that the number of airstrikes can greatly vary from one event to another. As ACLED is an event-based dataset, ACLED records airstrike events rather than airstrikes. This ensures consistency in the data, especially given the overall rare reporting on exact airstrike counts. Nine civilians were injured in Bani Al Harith district, according to Houthi sources, although many strikes continued to target drones and ballistic missiles sites. This was the fifth consecutive week in which Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on Sanaa city and neighboring districts were reported.
In parallel, Houthi forces resumed drone and ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia last week after an unusual pause in activity since 21 November. Houthi forces claim to have launched dozens of drones and missiles at targets across the Ar Riyadh, Asir, Jizan, Mecca, and Najran regions. This is the most significant Houthi escalation against Saudi Arabia since April 2021. Saudi forces intercepted a ballistic missile over the city of Riyadh.
In Syria, a Global Coalition drone strike targeted a former Hurras Al Deen member traveling on motorcycle on Mastumeh road in the Idleb countryside last week, killing him. The strike also impacted a civilian car traveling on the same road, wounding all seven family members on board. Meanwhile, in Lattakia, Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes on Lattakia port targeting a weapons shipment belonging to pro-Iran militias, leading to the outbreak of a fire in the port area, with no information on casualties. While Israel has regularly conducted raids against Iran-linked targets in Syria, it rarely strikes close to Lattakia, let alone the port within the city itself. The port sits some 20 kilometers away from the Russian-held airbase of Hmeimim (BBC, 7 December 2021).
In eastern Syria, Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) launched a conscription campaign last week focused mainly in Al Hasakeh and Ar-Raqqa provinces. Dozens of young men were conscripted throughout last week. Elsewhere, assassinations of regime force personnel by unidentified gunmen continued last week in southern Syria. This comes despite the recent consolidation of power by the regime through a series of reconciliation agreements with local armed groups since July 2021. Six individuals working in various regime army and security units were assassinated across Dar’a province last week and two were wounded.
In Iraq, unidentified militants detonated a motorcycle-borne IED on the Al Somood Bridge near the Chancellery building of the Teaching Hospital in Basrah city last week. The blast killed four people and injured four others. One of the victims was an inspector tasked with investigating ‘death squads’, a group of unidentified militants who are known to assassinate activists and demonstrators. Some Iraqi security sources blame ‘death squad’ militants for the attack, while other, similar sources blame the Islamic State (IS) (Reuters, 7 December 2021; Shafaq, 7 December 2021). Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces resumed anti-insurgency operations last week in Al Anbar, contributing to a 300% increase in violence in the governorate last week relative to the past month (see ACLED’s Early Warning Research Hub for more). IS suffered 24 fatalities during the operations, which were joined by Iraqi armed and air forces. On the other hand, attacks by IS and unidentified gunmen against Iraqi security forces increased last week in Kirkuk, mainly in Dibis and Daquq districts, led to 11 fatalities. These attacks contribute to a 380% increase in violence in Kirkuk governorate last week relative to the past month (see ACLED’s Early Warning Research Hub for more).
In Iraqi Kurdistan, a second week of Turkish airstrikes targeted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in northern Iraq. Strikes were reported in Duhok, Erbil, Al Sulaymaniyah, and Ninewa provinces. On the other hand, PKK militants attacked Turkish positions in the Amadiya district of Duhok province, resulting in at least five fatalities.
In Palestine, Israeli police shot dead a Palestinian assailant last week after he stabbed an Israeli civilian and attempted to attack a border police officer near the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem. Elsewhere, near the West Bank town of Tulkarm, a Palestinian teen rammed a car into a military checkpoint, injuring an Israeli guard before being shot dead by security forces. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz urged all security forces at West Bank checkpoints to be on “high alert” following the two lone-wolf attacks (Times of Israel, 6 December 2021). Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian rioter during a violent anti-settlement demonstration in Bayta last week. Clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian rioters have intensified in Bayta since anti-settlement demonstrations began there in May, following the establishment of a nearby settlement outpost (Press TV, 10 December 2021).
In Israel, government officials announced the completion of a technologically advanced barricade on the border with the Gaza Strip. The barrier – which includes an underground wall equipped with sensors, cameras, and radar – was constructed in response to Hamas militants using underground tunnels to infiltrate Israel during the 2014 war (Reuters, 7 December 2021).
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