Last week in the Middle East, a drone attack attributed to Iran in the Gulf of Oman and a Houthi missile launched into the Red Sea posed threats to the freedom of navigation around the Arabian Peninsula. In Yemen, armed clashes increased significantly, despite overall political violence levels that remained similar to the week prior. In Syria, Islamic State (IS) militants targeted regime and aligned forces positions in the Syrian desert. In Iraqi Kurdistan, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shelled Kurdish armed groups. In Iran, anti-government protests more than doubled nationwide in response to increased police violence. In Turkey, six civilians were reportedly killed and 81 were injured in a bombing attack in Istanbul city, while three Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants were reportedly killed in armed clashes with state forces in Agri and Mus provinces. In Palestine, three Israeli civilian settlers and a Palestinian civilian were reportedly killed last week in two separate violent events in the West Bank.
In the north of the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Oman, an Iranian-made Shahed drone hit an oil tanker operated by an Israeli-affiliated company on 15 November. The strike caused minimal damage to the hull of the tanker and no injuries. According to a western official, it was launched by IRGC forces from the port city of Chabahar (Twitter @nafisehkBBC, 17 November 2022). The strike took place hours after the United States Navy announced that it had seized explosive material in the Gulf of Oman from a ship en route from Iran to Yemen. Officials said that the chemicals would be “enough to fuel more than a dozen medium-range ballistic missiles” (Associated Press, 15 November 2022). On the other side of the Arabian Peninsula, Houthi forces conducted the test launch of an anti-ship missile from Sanaa governorate on 17 November, which fell into the international waters of the Red Sea to the west of Hodeidah. The Internationally Recognized Government (IRG) military spokesman accused IRGC forces of being involved in the launch (Al Masdar, 18 November 2022).
In Yemen, clashes increased significantly last week, driven by an almost doubling of political violence levels in Taizz governorate compared to the week prior. Throughout the week, clashes between Houthi and IRG forces took place on the fronts around Taizz city. Clashes also took place between Houthi and Southern Transitional Council-affiliated forces in the south of the governorate, along the border with Lahij. Continued violence along the border in Lahij contributed to the 205% increase in average weekly violent events in Lahij in the past month relative to the weekly average for the preceding year flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker. The Subnational Tracker also warned of increased violence in Lahij during the preceding four weeks. Clashes also increased in the northwestern and southern fronts of Marib governorate, where Houthi forces also targeted IRG forces with drones.
In Syria, IS attacks against pro-regime militias, pro-Iran militias, and regime forces in the deserts of Deir ez Zor and Ar Raqqa governorates more than doubled last week. The attacks resulted in the reported deaths of at least five regime fighters and six pro-Iran militia fighters. Meanwhile, local gunmen, supported by regime forces, clashed with IS militants in Dara city last week for the third consecutive week. The clashes resulted in the reported deaths of at least 11 IS members. Elsewhere, shelling and armed clashes between opposition and Islamist factions and regime forces along frontline areas in northern Syria decreased last week. Likewise, Turkish and rebel forces shelling and airstrikes of Syrian Democratic Forces and People’s Protection Units positions in the north of the country saw a significant decline last week compared to the week prior.
In Iraq, the IRGC conducted cross-border strikes last week targeting Kurdish militant groups in Erbil and Al Sulaymaniyah provinces, reportedly killing at least two fighters. The IRGC accused these groups of smuggling weapons into Iran and threatened a ground operation should the Iraqi government fail to secure the border between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan (ABC News, 18 November 2022). Elsewhere, fighting between Turkish forces and the PKK continued to decrease last week for the sixth consecutive week.
In Iran, nationwide demonstration events triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini significantly increased last week. More demonstrations turned violent, with police interventions more than tripled, reportedly resulting in the deaths of four people. This violence contributed to the 50% increase in violent events in Iran last week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map also warned of increased violence in the country during the preceding four weeks. Similarly, police violence against ethnic Kurds increased in Kurdistan province, where police reportedly killed three civilians. This violence triggered clashes between Kurdish rioters and police in Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan provinces and reportedly resulted in the death of eight people. While violence in Kurdistan has not been common, it has become increasingly volatile, resulting in a shift from a place of ‘low risk’ to being considered an area of ‘growing risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.
In Turkey, six civilians and three PKK militants were reportedly killed in various violent events last week. On 13 November, a bomb detonated in the busy Istiklal street in Istanbul, reportedly killing six Turkish civilians and injuring 81 others. The Turkish police identified and arrested a Syrian woman as the perpetrator, claiming that she was a PKK agent, and blamed the attack on the group and their Syrian affiliates (The Guardian, 14 November 2022). However, the PKK denied the accusation (Al Jazeera, 14 November 2022). This attack is the deadliest recorded by ACLED in Istanbul since a twin suicide bombing attack by the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks group in 2016 that killed 44 people. Meanwhile, Turkish Gendarmerie forces reportedly killed three PKK members during two separate armed clashes in Agri province’s Dogubeyazit district and Mus province’s Varto district.
Last week in Palestine, one Palestinian and three Israelis were reportedly killed during separate attacks in the West Bank. On 14 November, Israeli military forces opened fire toward a Palestinian car during an overnight operation in Baytunya town west of Ramallah city, reportedly killing a 15-year-old girl and injuring the driver. The soldiers claimed to have shot the car after the driver accelerated toward them when they signaled him to stop. However, Palestinian media disputes their claim and maintains that the car slowed down (Times of Israel, 14 November 2022). On 15 November, a Palestinian with no clear political affiliation carried out a stabbing and car-ramming attack at the entrance of Ariel settlement, reportedly killing three Israeli settlers and injuring another four before being shot dead by off-duty soldiers and armed settlers. The attack sparked a series of violent demonstrations involving Israeli settlers across the West Bank last week. This violence contributed to the 45% increase in average weekly violent events in Palestine 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.
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.