Over the past month in the Middle East, UAE-backed forces continued to gain territory in southern Yemen, where they faced the deadliest attack by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the country since 2017. In Taizz governorate, worsening fighting between Houthi and anti-Houthi forces caused violence levels to spike in the last two weeks. In Syria, Israeli and Global Coalition forces carried out airstrikes targeting pro-Iran militias. In Iraq, Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr announced his retirement from politics, triggering clashes between rival Shiite militias and their supporters. In Turkey, fighting between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) continued throughout the past month, while People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters shelled targets from within Syrian territory, killing two Turkish soldiers. In Palestine, Israeli forces killed nine Palestinian militants and two civilians during security operations. Meanwhile, Palestinian gunmen targeted Israeli military forces, settlers, and civilians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In Yemen, UAE-backed forces continued to gain territory in southern Yemen over the past month. In Shabwah, Giants Brigade and Shabwani Defense forces moved north into Jardan and Arma districts, reaching within 10 kilometers of Hadramawt. Both forces have subsequently retreated to areas further south following directives from the head of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), Rashad Al Alimi (Al Masdar, 21 August 2022). Nonetheless, the UAE-backed secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC) now holds control over most of Shabwah governorate. Islah-affiliated forces from the national army and the Special Security in the Internationally Recognized Government (IRG) have been relegated to a few northern areas that border Hadramawt.
After securing Shabwah, STC President Aydarus Al Zubaydi announced the launch of Operation ‘Eastern Arrows’ in Abyan governorate on 22 August to “combat weapons smuggling to Houthi areas through Abyan coastal roads, as well as Al Qaeda” (Al Ain, 22 August 2022). STC-affiliated forces deployed in several districts of Abyan and announced the takeover of the governorate after reaching agreements with the national army (Aden Independent Channel, 23 August 2022). The complete takeover of the governorate has, however, not been confirmed. On 6 September, AQAP launched an attack on an STC-affiliated Security Belt forces checkpoint in Ahwar district, with both parties reporting the deaths of at least 20 Security Belt fighters and seven AQAP militants in the clash (Reuters, 6 September 2022; Twitter @Dr_E_Kendall, 12 September 2022).
In Taizz, increased Houthi military activity along fronts surrounding Taizz city caused levels of political violence in the governorate to peak over the past two weeks. Between 28 and 29 August, Houthi forces launched one of the deadliest attacks since the beginning of the UN-mediated truce in April to the west of Taizz city, around the last main road leading out of the city towards IRG-controlled areas. The attack was condemned by UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg as threatening “to seriously worsen the humanitarian situation” (Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, 31 August 2022). Although this was not accompanied by any notable change in territorial control, clashes around Taizz represent an obstacle to any agreement on the reopening of roads around the city. The reopening of these roads is the last remaining item of the truce yet to see any tangible progress (Human Rights Watch, 29 August 2022).
At the political level, UN Special Envoy Grundberg briefed the UN Security Council on two occasions over the past month. On 15 August, Grundberg reiterated that “road openings in Taiz and other governorates continue to be at the forefront of [his] efforts” (Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, 15 August 2022), while his briefing to the council on 8 September was held behind closed doors. Throughout the past month, Grundberg also traveled to Riyadh and Tehran to discuss extending and expanding the truce.1The UN-mediated truce was announced on 1 April for an initial two-month period from 2 April to 2 June. It was renewed for two-month extensions twice, and now runs until 2 October. In Amman, meanwhile, members of the Military Coordination Committee met with Grundberg’s military advisor between 29 August and 1 September, where they discussed coordination for the committee’s next steps (Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, 2 September 2022).
In Syria, Israel resumed airstrikes on regime forces and pro-Iran militias positions over the past month, killing at least 11 regime and pro-Iran militia fighters. The strikes were most concentrated in Masyaf district in Hama, where Israeli warplanes carried out multiple strikes on pro-Iran militia positions on 25 August. Pro-Iran militia positions were also targeted in Deir ez Zor province by Global Coalition forces, leaving 11 pro-Iran militia fighters dead.
Meanwhile, Turkish and rebel shelling of Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD)- and YPG-controlled areas in northern Syria more than doubled in the third week of August relative to the week prior, before returning to pre-August levels for the remainder of August and early September. Shelling and airstrikes continued to center on Aleppo and Al Hasakeh provinces. Likewise, shelling and armed clashes between regime forces and opposition and Islamist factions along frontline areas in Idleb, Hama, and Aleppo provinces saw a significant increase in the third week of August, followed by a steady decline in late August and early September.
In Iraq, the ongoing political crisis associated with the formation of government escalated after Shiite cleric Al Sadr announced his retirement from political life on 29 August. His announcement sparked two days of clashes between pro-Sadrist Movement and pro-Iran militias in Baghdad and Basrah cities. These clashes followed weeks of protest by Sadrist Movement supporters demanding new elections, the dissolution of parliament, and constitutional reform. Skirmishes between rioters and police escalated into armed clashes on 29 and 30 August, with Sadrist Peace Company fighters and Iranian-backed militias exchanging heavy fire, including artillery strikes in the Green Zone. Similarly, in Basrah city, Peace Companies and Asaib Ahl Al Haq (AAH) fighters exchanged fire. Unknown militants also attacked AAH headquarters in Kut, Babil, Maysan, and Al Basrah provinces. The clashes resulted in over 30 fatalities. Tensions between Sadrist and pro-Iran militias contribute to the 228% increase in weekly violent events in Al Basrah in the past month relative to the weekly average for the preceding year flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker, which warned of increased violence in Al Basrah during the preceding four weeks.
Elsewhere, fighting between Turkish forces and the PKK became increasingly deadly despite a small decrease in the number of events during the past month. ACLED records over 240 fatalities during fighting between Turkish forces and the PKK over the past month.
Clashes and other violent events involving Turkish forces and PKK and PKK-affiliated militants also continued in Turkey during the past month, leaving 17 militants and one Turkish soldier dead. In addition, two militants were killed by a Turkish airstrike in Siirt province. Members of the PKK-affiliated Civil Protection Units (YPS) also attacked and killed an off-duty military personnel in Gaziantep province.
Meanwhile, YPG forces shelled Turkish territory from across the Syrian-Turkish border on two occasions over the past month. On 16 August, YPG forces fired mortar shells and hit a military station in Cicekalan village in Sanliurfa province, killing two Turkish soldiers. YPG forces also fired rockets that landed in an empty area in Karkamis town in Gaziantep province. This is the first recorded cross-border shelling attack by the YPG since 11 October 2021. This violence contributed to the 36% 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 preceding four weeks.
Over the past month in Palestine, Israeli forces shot and killed nine Palestinian militants and two civilians during operations and clashes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Nine people were killed during Israeli military operations in the West Bank, including two Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militants, one member of the Fatah Movement, and one civilian. Separately, Israeli border police forces shot a Palestinian dead during a raid on his home in Kafr Aqab town, north of Jerusalem. Israeli police stated that they shot the man after he attempted to stab a police officer during a search operation for illegal weapons inside the house (Times of Israel, 15 August 2022).
Meanwhile, Palestinian assailants attacked Jewish and Israeli targets in East Jerusalem and the West Bank on multiple occasions during the past month. On 14 August, a Palestinian shot at an Israeli bus carrying Jewish worshippers and two private cars near the Western Wall in East Jerusalem. Eight people, including four Americans, were injured in the attack, and the assailant turned himself over to the Israeli police after a six-hour chase (Haaretz, 14 August 2022). Unrelatedly, unidentified Palestinian gunmen opened fire on five Israeli settlers during their visit to the Shrine of Prophet Joseph2The shrine is also considered a holy site by some Palestinian Muslims, who believe it to be the shrine of a shaykh sharing the same name with the biblical figure (Times of Israel, 11 April 2022). in Nablus, injuring two. The settlers reportedly entered the area without prior coordination with Israeli security forces (Times of Israel, 14 August 2022). Finally, armed Palestinians fired at Israeli settlers and soldiers near the Hamra settlement and An Nabi Salih village in the West Bank, injuring 10 soldiers and a civilian. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map previously warned of increased violence in Palestine during the past month.
Note: This dashboard automatically updates to cover the latest four weeks of data released by ACLED.