CrisisWatch N°132 - 1 August 2014

Report
from International Crisis Group
Published on 01 Aug 2014 View Original

Increasing Israeli-Palestinian tensions culminated in Israel launching "Operation Protective Edge" in Gaza in early July (see our latest report and commentary). The assault, which started as an aerial campaign and was later extended to include ground operations, reportedly killed more than 1,400 Palestinians throughout the month while 64 Israelis were killed in clashes inside the Gaza Strip and by Hamas rocket fire. Several attempts at reaching a ceasefire agreement failed in July. Israel backed proposals demanding a cessation of hostilities as a prerequisite for negotiating a long-term truce, while Hamas insisted that ceasefire modalities not agreed to during the fighting would never be addressed. As CrisisWatch goes to press there are reports that a three-day humanitarian ceasefire announced 1 August has already collapsed.

Iraq’s army and political leadership has made no tangible progress in responding to June’s territorial gains by jihadi and other rebel groups across the country’s north-west. A poorly-planned 15 July assault to recapture Tikrit failed while the jihadis leading the takeover, the Islamic State (formerly ISIL), moved to consolidate control in captured areas, eliminate Sunni rivals and destroy religious sites. Politicians in Baghdad continued jockeying for positions following April’s parliamentary elections, with Prime Minister Maliki showing no sign of wavering in his demand to retain his post. Unprecedented tensions also arose between Maliki and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over Kurdish territorial gains, boycotts of cabinet sessions and increasing calls for independence. (See our latest report and commentary.)

Syria’s northern armed opposition looks increasingly precarious. In the past month, opposition fighters were defeated by rival rebels from the jihadi group the Islamic State (formerly ISIL) in the eastern province Deir al-Zour while regime forces made progress in encircling rebels in Aleppo. Setbacks faced by the increasingly disorganised and poorly armed moderate opposition factions in Aleppo could provide an opportunity for IS to push further west (see our latest commentary). Meanwhile, IS and regime forces were increasingly drawn into direct confrontation as a consequence of their respective gains. IS reportedly seized a gas field east of Homs in mid-July and later took control of regime bases in Raqqa and Hassakeh provinces.

In Libya security units affiliated with Islamist-leaning Libya Revolutionaries’ Operation Room (LROR) clashed with Zintan militias over control of Tripoli airport, leaving scores dead. Many were also reported killed in ongoing violence between various government forces and militias in Benghazi during the second half of the month. The UN and most embassies evacuated their staff throughout the month citing security concerns. A newly-elected parliament faces challenges convening due to the ongoing violence: even if it does convene, its ability to find consensus on a way to tackle the country's escalating insecurity is uncertain.

South Sudan’s conflict escalated further as fighting broke out in new areas of Greater Bahr el Ghazal and both the government and SPLM in Opposition (SPLM-IO) launched offensives that displaced thousands, including a government attack on a World Food Programme distribution site. Tensions grew in the three Equatorian states, taking the form of demands for a federal government structure and frustrations over the perceived Dinka monopoly on state power. The EU imposed its first sanctions and renewed its arms embargo amid calls for the UN Security Council to follow suit. (See our recent Conflict Alert and commentary on civil society.)

Al-Shabaab stepped up its attacks across Somalia during the holy month of Ramadan, killing dozens of government and security officials. The Somali Federal Government fired its police and intelligence chiefs after an attack on the presidential palace in early July. Tribal violence and tensions over the creation of a new federal state continued in south central.

In Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, one of the two candidates in the presidential run-off elections, rejected preliminary results of the second round of voting showing his opponent, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, to be in the lead (see our latest commentary). With tensions rising and Abdullah’s supporters urging him to declare a parallel government, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry intervened in mid-July and brokered an agreement between the candidates requiring an audit of all ballot boxes. The audit began on 17 July but was quickly complicated by delays and procedural disagreements between the two camps, ultimately leading to its postponement until early August. Meanwhile, violence across the country continued to increase, with numerous attacks reported including in the capital Kabul.

Army operations against tribal militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region caused mass displacement and left residents without adequate humanitarian assistance. The FATA Disaster Management Authority registered nearly one million IDPs fleeing operations by 22 July. The military restricted the work of foreign aid organisations and local NGOs, leaving people to rely on the charity fronts of jihadi organisations.