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ACLED Regional Overview - Middle East (4 - 10 June 2022)

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Last week in the Middle East, political violence increased in Yemen during the first week of the UN-mediated truce extension. In Syria, Israeli airstrikes put Damascus International Airport out of service. In Iraq, the caretaker government passed a new food security law to address high food prices. In Palestine, six clashes were recorded between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, while a Palestinian was killed during a clash between rioters and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. In Turkey and Israel, pro-LGBT+ groups marched to demand equality, in commemoration of LGBT+ Pride Month. In Iran, retirees held nationwide demonstrations demanding increases to a newly-announced pension payment scale.

In Yemen, last week, political violence reached its highest levels since the beginning of the UN-mediated truce on 2 April, with notable increases in Ad Dali, Marib, and Sadah governorates (For more on the impacts of the truce on political violence during its first two months, see* this ACLED analysis piece*.) In Ad Dali, the increase in political violence was driven by clashes between Southern Transitional Council (STC)-affiliated forces and unidentified gunmen, unrelated to the truce (for more on truce violations, see ACLED’s Yemen Truce Monitor). In Sadah, meanwhile, the increase was driven by Internationally Recognized Government shelling of Houthi positions. These events contributed to the 101% increase in violence in Sadah in the past month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker. The Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in Ad Dali and Sadah in the past month.

No Saudi-led coalition air raids from fighter jets were reported for the tenth consecutive week last week and no Houthi drone or missile attacks on Saudi Arabia for the eleventh consecutive week. Drone strike events in Yemen increased by more than half compared to the week prior, however, with one Houthi strike killing two children in Maqbanah district of Taizz.1

In southern Yemen, deployments of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were reported in Bayhan and Usaylan districts in Shabwah, and in the STC stronghold of Yafaa in Lahij (Al Mashhad Al Janubi, 7 June 2022; Masa Press, 9 June 2022). In Abyan governorate, presumed AQAP militants abducted and executed a logistics officer in the STC-affiliated Security Belt Forces.

At the political level, the truce parties held the second meeting of the military coordination committee on 6 June. They agreed to take further steps aimed at de-escalation, including setting up a joint coordination room and nominating focal points to ensure regular communication (Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, 6 June 2022). However, there were still no breakthroughs with regards to the reopening of roads in Taizz and other governorates (Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, 6 June 2022).

In Syria, Israel resumed airstrikes against regime forces and pro-Iran and Hezbollah militias positions in Rural Damascus last week; ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in Rural Damascus in the past month. Israeli forces also carried out a strike on Damascus International Airport, damaging the runway and the control tower, and putting the airport out of service. Meanwhile, Turkish military operations against Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) controlled-areas in northern Syria declined last week, particularly in Al Hasakeh and Ar Raqqa provinces. Demonstrations against the ongoing Turkish military operation continued for the second consecutive week, with rioters storming and setting fire to Turkish electrical company and local council buildings in Afrin and Mare’ in Aleppo province.

In Iraq, fighting between Turkish forces and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) slightly declined for the fourth consecutive week last week. Despite the continuous decrease in fighting, Operation Claw Lock in northern Iraq continues to be a significant driver of violence in Iraq. While violence in Duhok 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. Operation Claw Lock-related events have contributed to the 188% increase in violence in Duhok in the past month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker. The Subnational Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in Duhok in the past month.

Elsewhere, the Iraqi parliament passed a new emergency food security law. This was to avoid a food crisis in the country after parliament failed to pass a prior food security law, which was deemed unconstitutional by the Iraqi Supreme Court (Al Monitor, 10 June 2022). Public sector workers, especially those on short-term contracts, and veterinarians demonstrated in multiple cities complaining about their exclusion from the benefits of the new law.

Meanwhile, unknown militants targeted the car of an Iraqi counter-narcotics policeman with an IED in Maysan province. Iraqi police successfully defused another IED planted near a notary office in Amara city. Violence in Maysan has been volatile and has become increasingly common, resulting in a shift from a place of ‘growing risk’ to being considered an area of ‘extreme risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.

In Palestine, Palestinian gunmen and Israeli forces exchanged fire on six separate occasions last week, including two clashes in the Jenin refugee camp. The Jenin refugee camp has become a hotbed of increased violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen and rioters in recent months. This violence contributed to the 37% increase in violence in Palestine in the past month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month. Separately, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian rioter during clashes in Halhul village that began after Israeli forces raided the village.

Last week, members of the LGBT+ community and their allies held large demonstrations in Turkey and Israel to commemorate LGBT+ Pride Month. In Israel, over 170,000 Israelis participated in the Pride March in Tel Aviv to demand equality for the LGBT+ community (Times of Israel, 10 June 2022). In Turkey, Turkish LGBT+ groups also staged demonstrations in Istanbul and Ankara to mark the month and to demand equality for the LGBT+ community. Turkish police intervened in both of the latter demonstrations, firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at protesters, and detaining a number of protesters.

In Iran, retirees protested in dozens of cities across the country last week, demanding an increase in their pensions to address increasing living costs. The demonstrations come after the government announced a new pension payment scale on 5 June (RFE/RL, 7 June 2022), which demonstrators claim falls short of their needs.