Last week in the Middle East, political violence increased in Yemen to reach its highest level since the start of the two-month UN-sponsored truce that came into effect on 2 April. In Syria, Israel conducted strikes targeting pro-Iran militias. In Iraq, Turkey continued its military campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. In Iran, police arrested protesters at several demonstrations calling for improved salaries for teachers. In Turkey, nine were killed in deadly events across the country. In Palestine, four Palestinians, including a Palestinian-American journalist, and one Israeli were killed in the West Bank.
In Yemen, political violence reached its highest level last week since the start of the UN-sponsored truce, as the country entered the sixth week of the truce. The most significant increase in violence took place in Sadah governorate, as Houthi forces accuse pro-Hadi forces of daily shelling on their positions in the Saudi-Yemeni border areas (Yemen News Agency, 12 May 2022). This contributed to a 204% increase in violence in Sadah last week relative to the past month flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Tracker. The Tracker also warned of increased violence to come in Sadah the week prior. Elsewhere, in Marib governorate, Houthi forces claim to have killed nine pro-Hadi fighters as they thwarted an offensive in the Balaq mountain range south of Marib city (Yemen Press Agency, 9 May 2022).
Despite these incidents, no Saudi-led coalition air raids from fighter jets were reported for the sixth consecutive week last week, as well as no Houthi drone or missile attacks on Saudi Arabia for the seventh consecutive week.
At the political level, Houthi-affiliated authorities and Yemen’s internationally-recognized government reached a deal last week on the resumption of commercial flights to and from Sanaa (Reuters, 12 May 2022).1The first flight took off from Sanaa airport on 16 May (Associated Press, 16 May 2022) UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg traveled to Aden last week to discuss elements of the truce, including the holding of meetings to open roads in Taizz and other governorates that have yet to take place (Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, 11 May 2022).
Meanwhile, reported Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) activity continued in southern Yemen last week. On 11 May, Shabwani Defence Forces claim to have killed a senior AQAP leader during clashes in Shabwah governorate (South24, 13 May 2022). In Abyan, AQAP issued an official denial of an attack on Giants Brigades forces (Twitter @Dr_E_Kendall, 10 May 2022). The attacks on Giants Brigades forces last week contributed to a 100% increase in violence in the governorate relative to the past month as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Tracker, which warned of increased violence to come in Abyan in the past month.
In Syria, Israel conducted two cross-border strikes targeting pro-Iran militias last week. On 11 May, Israeli artillery targeted pro-Iran militia positions in Khan Arnaba district in Quneitra province. Israeli airstrikes later targeted regime and pro-Iran militia positions in Masyaf district in Hama, killing six regime fighters.
Elsewhere, shelling activity significantly increased in Idleb province, where regime shelling of rebel-held areas doubled on the frontlines of Al Mara and Ariha districts, while rebel groups targeted regime forces in Al Mara and Saraqeb districts. This violence contributed to the 41% increase in violence in Syria last week relative to the past month as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month.
Meanwhile, Turkish and rebel shelling and airstrikes more than doubled last week, primarily targeting the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) in northern Syria. The increase was most notable in Aleppo province, where the strikes expanded their geographic scope targeting Menbij and Ain Al Arab districts.
Turkish airstrikes also increased in northern Iraq last week, particularly in the Barwari Bala and Nerwa Rekan districts of Duhok. These trends contribute to the 183% increase in violence in Duhok last month relative to the past year as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker, which first warned of increased violence to come in Duhok in the past month. Violence in Duhok is both common and highly volatile; it is considered an area of ‘extreme risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces continued counter-Islamic State (IS) operations, resulting in a significant increase in clashes and airstrike events2Note 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. targeting IS militants in Ninewa, Kirkuk, Salah Al Din, and Anbar provinces. In contrast, IS attacks decreased by over 80% last week compared to the week prior after a surge of violence during Ramadan.
In Iran, the protest movement led by the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates continued last week, with nationwide protests held demanding a salary ranking plan and pension payment equalization. Police intervention in the demonstrations rose by more than 300% last week compared to the week prior, as protesters were arrested in Khuzestan, Tehran, and Kurdistan provinces.
Last week in Turkey, nine fatalities were recorded in attacks involving militants and state forces. Three Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members were killed in clashes with Turkish military forces in Sirnak province. Also in Sirnak, militants from the Civil Protection Units (YPS) – an affiliate of the PKK – killed two shepherds for allegedly providing information to the Turkish army about PKK activity (Rudaw, 12 May 2022). Meanwhile, militants from the People’s United Revolutionary Movement (HBDH) – another PKK affiliate – attacked a police vehicle with a remote explosive in Istanbul’s Sariyer district, killing an officer.
Elsewhere, near the border with Syria, on 7 May, unidentified militants from the Syrian side of the border shot and killed a nine-year-old in Ceylanpinar town, Sanliurfa. Days later, an unidentified group carried out a mortar attack from the Syrian side of the border targeting the Koprubasi border outpost in Gaziantep and killing one soldier. This is the first time ACLED records deadly attacks by Syrian armed groups on Turkish territory since 2 February 2022. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map first warned of increased violence to come in Turkey in the past month.
Last week in Palestine, four Palestinians and one Israeli were killed in the West Bank. On 8 May, Israeli security forces shot and killed a Palestinian worker as he tried to enter Israel, while an armed Palestinian was killed by private security forces after entering the Tekoa settlement. On 11 May, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian rioter in the Jabal al Tawil area as clashes broke out between the two sides. Meanwhile, in the Jenin refugee camp, a Palestinian-American journalist from Al Jazeera was killed on 11 May while reporting on an Israeli military operation. The journalist was shot during a fire exchange between unidentified Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers. While Al Jazeera and the Palestinian Authority (PA) accuse Israel of deliberately killing her, Israeli authorities deny this and called for a joint investigation with the PA (France 24, 11 May 2022). Two days later, in the Jenin refugee camp, an Israeli soldier was killed during clashes with Palestinian gunmen, as Israeli forces conducted an arrest operation. Over 10,000 Palestinians attended the journalist’s funeral procession in Jerusalem, during which Israeli police forces assaulted mourners after some in the crowd allegedly threw stones at police (Times of Israel, 15 May 2022). The killing of the journalist, as well as the Israeli response to her funeral procession, sparked demonstrations in a number of countries in the region — including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Bahrain, and Yemen — as well as condemnation around the world (The Guardian, 14 May 2022).
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