Notable trends, including offensives, continued in several countries, including Israel, Palestine, Syria and Yemen. Meanwhile, counter-insurgency operations by Turkish forces were stepped up both inside and outside of the country.

Rocket fire and airstrikes continued to be exchanged between Palestinian militants and Israeli military this past week, with these activities making up the majority of events in Israel and Palestine over the period. Israel reported that at least 45 rockets were fired into Israel by Palestinian militants, primarily Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), with 7 being intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, while kites and balloons were also used to start a number of fires. Israeli forces also engaged in a number of air- and drone-strike over the Gaza Strip, many of which hit Hamas positions, reportedly in response to the rocket attacks and kite-fires.

Turkish military forces engaged in several notable counter-insurgency activities last week. This included a large-scale counter-insurgency operation that took place across Diyarbakir and Sirnak provinces, as well as in the Avasin-Baysan region of Iraq, killing at least 26 unidentified militants. Six Turkish airstrikes were also reported in northern Iraq, all of which targeted the PKK and resulted in reported fatalities. Significant clashes were also reported in Cukura district of Hakkari province last week, with a number of Turkish soldiers reportedly killed.

In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) backed by Global Coalition Against Daesh achieved major advances against the Islamic State (IS) in Al-Hasakeh governorate, reportedly managing to impose control over the remainder of the Islamic State’s (IS) enclave in the south of the governorate. QSD and Coalition forces then began mobilizing all troops for a new offensive against the remaining IS presence around the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. Syrian government forces also gained ground against IS during continued clashes in the southeast governorate of As-Sweida as well as in the eastern desert of rural Damascus and around al-Bukamal.

In southern Syria, after weeks of government pressure on rebel-held areas in Dar’a and Quneitra governorates, Syrian government forces and their allies have stepped up their offensive to gain control of Dar’a. Russian forces also carried out their first strikes of the new offensive, targeting the town of Bisr al-Harir, a strategic intersection in the fight for control over southern Syria. These operations, along with an announcement from the United States military that opposition groups should not expect US intervention in the south, have catalyzed a unification among rebel groups in Dar’a and Quneitra governorates. This has manifested in the creation of the “South Central Operations Room”. This new group is made up of the major “operation rooms” (coordinating bodies for rebel fighters) in the two governorates which have united under the command of the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front. In coming weeks, Syrian government forces will likely increase pressure on the eastern countryside of Dar’a, particularly the Lajat region, in an attempt to advance through Bisr al-Harir and split the area into two enclaves.

In Yemen, UAE-backed forces took complete control over the Al-Hudayda international airport last week after fighting with Houthi militiamen in the area over multiple days. Fighters from the UAE-backed “Giants” brigade have also taken control of the “Kilu 16” area, a strategic intersection connecting Al-Hudayda to Yemen’s capital of Sana’a. Elsewhere, pro-Hadi troops and allied militias have reportedly taken complete control of the Naman district in Al-Bayda.

(Note that our coverage of Saudi Arabia and Yemen is supported by local partners and is therefore subject to sourcing lags based on their capacity to process reports and the situation on the ground. As such, some events may be incorporated into ACLED’s dataset with a one-week delay)

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Regional Overview – Middle East
25 June 2018
Matt Batten-Carew
Matt Batten-Carew
Global Program Coordinator
Matthew Batten-Carew is the Global Program Coordinator at ACLED. He led the Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey projects, and was formerly a Middle East Research Manager, as well as an Associate Manager with ACLED's Asia project. Mr. Batten-Carew holds an M.A. in Geopolitics & Grand Strategy and a second M.A. in Eurasian Studies, with research focusing on regional governance and conflict management. He has worked for the Canadian government's Departments of Global Affairs and National Defence, and for consulting firms in policy development and political risk analysis. He is fluent in English and French, and is based in Ottawa, Canada.
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