Last week in the Middle East, political violence levels increased in Yemen as clashes between nominally allied anti-Houthi forces flared up in Shabwah governorate. In Syria, regime forces and opposition rebels clashed in Tafas in Dara province. In Iraq, rival Shiite groups continued to protest in the Baghdad Green Zone. In southeast Turkey, nine Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants were killed in armed clashes with Turkish state forces. In Israel and Palestine, an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire led to the cessation of three days of cross-border strikes between Israeli forces and the Islamic Jihad Movement (PIJ). In eastern Lebanon, Hezbollah intercepted an Israeli drone.
In Yemen, intense clashes took place last week in Shabwah governorate between forces affiliated with different factions of the Political Leadership Council (PLC).1The PLC was formed in April 2022 to unite the anti-Houthi front. For more on the creation of the PLC, see the section on political and military developments of ACLED’s Yemen Truce Monitor. The clashes came despite attempts by the PLC to reduce tensions by dismissing a number of military and security commanders (Twitter @Alsakaniali, 8 August 2022). On 10 August, after days of clashes, forces aligned with the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC) ousted national forces affiliated with the Islah party from the governorate’s capital, Ataq, and surrounding areas.2These are made up of Giants Brigade forces and Shabwani Defense forces on one side, and forces from the local military axis and Special Security forces on the other, respectively. According to several reports, this was enabled by UAE air cover in support of STC-aligned forces, with as many as 30 drone strikes (Al Masdar, 10 August 2022).
The highest levels of political violence since January, when Giants Brigade forces ousted Houthi forces from the governorate, were registered in Shabwah last week. The clashes led to the 771% increase in violent events in Shabwah over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), it has also led to the highest levels of weekly displacement in the country since February (IOM, 15 August 2022).
The outburst of violence also led Islah-affiliated PLC member Abdullah Al Alimi to submit his resignation, which he was persuaded to rescind to avoid further fragmentation of the anti-Houthi alliance (Reuters, 11 August 2022). Meanwhile, the Islah party threatened to “reconsider its participation in all fields” if the PLC did not dismiss the UAE-backed governor of Shabwah (Al Islah Party, 11 August 2022). While violence in Shabwah has been common, it has become increasingly volatile, resulting in a shift from a place of ‘consistent risk’ to being considered an area of ‘extreme risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.
In Syria, regime forces launched a military operation and clashed with opposition rebels and local militias in Tafas in Dara last week following a refusal by local dignitaries to hand over individuals wanted by the regime. Meanwhile, Turkish and rebel shelling and drone strikes targeting Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD)- and People’s Protection Units (YPG)-controlled areas more than doubled last week following a significant decline the week prior. Turkish drones targeted an UN-affiliated coronavirus hospital near Quamishli in Al Hasakeh province, killing four health workers. ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker warned of increased violence in Al Hasakeh during the preceding four weeks. Meanwhile, fighting between regime forces and rebel and Islamist factions in the frontline areas of Hama, Aleppo, Idleb, and Lattakia provinces continued at a similar pace to the week prior.
In Iraq, the government formation crisis entered its third week as supporters of rival Shiite blocs — the Sadrist Movement and the Coordination Framework — continued to protest in major cities following the rejection of the nomination of Mohamed al Sudani for prime minister by the Sadrist Movement. While the overall number of these protest events decreased, Sadrist protesters escalated their demands, calling for early elections and the dissolution of the caretaker government. Meanwhile, a power outage caused by high temperatures triggered riots in Basrah and Muthanna provinces.
Elsewhere, Islamic State (IS) and unknown militants attacked Iraqi state forces and civilians in Kirkuk province. These attacks contribute to the 460% increase in violent events in Kirkuk last week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker, which warned of increased violence in Kirkuk during the preceding four weeks. Similarly, tribally-motivated violence and armed clashes between farmers contribute to the 200% increase in violent events in Maysan last week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker. The Subnational Tracker also warned of increased violence in Maysan during the preceding four weeks.
Turkish airstrike events3Note 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. in Iraq decreased compared to the week prior, driven by a fall in activity in Duhok province. However, Turkey resumed airstrikes in Ninewa province following a pause the week prior.
In Turkey, Turkish forces clashed with PKK militants on three separate occasions in Hakkari and Batman provinces last week, leaving at least nine PKK militants dead. This violence contributed to the 41% increase in weekly violent events in Turkey in the past month relative to the weekly average for the preceding year. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map also warned of increased violence in the country during the past month.
In Israel and Palestine, the exchange of hostilities continued between Israeli state forces and the PIJ last week, along with an overall increase in demonstrations and mob violence events in both countries. Over the three days of the conflict, Israeli forces reportedly launched 147 airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which reports suggest left at least 49 Palestinians dead, including 12 militants and 17 children (ReliefWeb, 9 August 2022). On 6 August, at least five Palestinian civilians, including children, were killed during an apparent strike on Jabalya town, with each side blaming the other for the deaths. The Israeli military blamed the explosion on a PIJ rocket that misfired (Middle East Monitor, 6 August 2022). At the same time, the PIJ fired a barrage of rockets toward Israel, totaling 1,100 rockets over the three days, with around 200 rockets landing within the Gaza Strip, while approximately 990 crossed into Israel (ReliefWeb, 9 August 2022). Of the 990 that crossed into Israel, about 380 were intercepted by the Iron Dome; the rest either landed in unpopulated areas or resulted in property and material damage (ABC News, 12 August 2022). On 7 August, late in the evening, an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into effect, putting an end to the most serious flare-up since the 11-day conflict in May 2021 between Hamas and Israel.
Also, in Palestine, Israeli military forces carried out a military operation and clashed with militants in Nablus city on 9 August. Two militants, including a senior Fatah commander, and one civilian were killed during the clash. Following the armed clash, a Palestinian civilian was killed by Israeli forces and 69 others were injured during a riot in Hebron. This violence contributed to the 150% and 389% increases in violent events in Palestine and Israel, respectively, over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah anti-aircraft systems opened fire toward an Israeli drone over Bekaa valley last week. It is unclear whether the drone was shot down or not. The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Hezbollah and Israel surrounding ongoing talks about the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon (Jerusalem Post, 12 August 2022). Meanwhile, an armed man was arrested after besieging a bank in Beirut for more than six hours. He targeted the bank because he could not withdraw his savings due to restrictions on the amount of money that can be withdrawn amid a deep economic crisis. Demonstrations demanding his release broke out all over the country following his arrest.
Note: This dashboard automatically updates to cover the latest four weeks of data released by ACLED. Use the date filters to view data for the one-week period covered by this Regional Overview.