Israel/Gaza dominated MENA conflict in 2023

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With the exception of the Israel/Palestinian territories conflict, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) saw a stalemate in conflicts across the region last year and “a reluctant acceptance of the status quo by the international community” according to the International Institute for Security Studies (IISS) 2023 armed conflict survey.

The publication points out Syria and Yemen are two of the region’s most violent wars and countries where the status quo was retained.

“The Arab League,” it continues, “welcomed back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to its annual summit in May 2023 more than a decade after it expelled the country due to Assad’s conduct. Turkiye started normalising relations with Assad”.

“In Yemen, Saudi Arabia entered into direct negotiations with Ansarullah (the Houthi movement), putting the kingdom on a path that will likely result in recognition of Houthi rule over Sanaa and northern Yemen and the eventual partition of the country.”

In Libya, conflict remained at a stalemate, with the country divided between competing governments, while Iraq and Egypt saw a decrease in fighting. Turkiye and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party continued to clash, but with no significant loss of territory the survey reads in part.

On what it calls the Israel/Palestinian Territories conflict, the IISS noted increased tensions and fighting, particularly in the West Bank, where levels of violence were at their highest since 2005.

“Israeli security services conducted an unprecedented number of deadly raids on Palestinian towns, while Palestinians continued lone wolf violent assaults against civilians and the security sector. Violence was exacerbated by the Israeli extreme right wing government, which continued settlement building and its attempts to strengthen the executive branch at the expense of the judiciary.”