Tracking Conflict Worldwide
Outlook for This Month October 2020
Conflict Risk Alerts
Trends for Last Month September 2020
The latest edition of Crisis Group’s monthly conflict tracker highlights deteriorations in September in nine countries and conflict areas as well as improved situations in Somalia, Afghanistan and Libya.
Tensions in the Taiwan Strait spiked amid heightened Chinese military activity and a senior U.S. official’s visit to Taiwan.
In Uganda, political rivalries ran high ahead of the general elections in early 2021, with restrictions on free speech and ruling-party primaries marred by deadly violence.
In Lebanon, the new prime minister-designate resigned after failing to form a government as the country faces deepening political polarisation.
In Colombia, deadly unrest erupted in the capital Bogotá and other cities after a video emerged of police abuse.
Looking ahead to October, CrisisWatch warns of six conflict risks.
Azerbaijani and Armenian authorities called on their local populations to prepare for war after major clashes along the front line in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone left dozens of military personnel killed on both sides in late September. The fighting, which constitutes the severest military escalation since the 1994 ceasefire, could worsen in coming weeks.
In Côte d’Ivoire, pre-electoral tensions rose as the Constitutional Council confirmed President Ouattara’s candidacy but excluded several prominent candidates, creating an explosive climate ahead of the vote scheduled for 31 October.
Meanwhile, both Guinea and Bolivia face high-stake presidential elections which could spark violence around their respective 18 October votes.
Israel signed bilateral normalisation agreements with United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain; Hamas and Fatah announced deal to hold elections and tit-for-tat attacks broke out between Gaza militants and Israel. At White House ceremony, PM Netanyahu alongside Emirati and Bahraini FMs 15 Sept signed deal to normalise relations. Ahead of signing, President Abbas 3 Sept chaired meeting with Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to define unified response, calling for formation of popular committees to oversee resistance activities against occupation and later stressing need to unite Palestinian political system. At Arab League meeting, UAE and Bahrain 9 Sept defended deal by citing Israel’s commitment to halt prospective West Bank annexation. Following failure of Palestinian efforts to get Arab League to pass resolution condemning deals, Palestinian PM Mohammed Ishtayeh 14 Sept called for reconsidering relations with league, describing forum as “a symbol of Arab inaction”. Hamas and Fatah 24 Sept announced deal to hold Palestinian Authority (PA) legislative elections, PA presidential elections and Central Council elections for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. Across West Bank, Israeli security operations led to numerous arrests and clashes that caused injury of at least 70 Palestinians and two Israelis; notably, Israel 7 Sept detained over 45 Palestinians in Hebron in largest arrest campaign this year while skirmishes between Palestinians and settlers near Ramallah early Sept broke out. In sign of Israel’s ongoing de facto annexation of West Bank, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz 6 Sept approved construction of 5,000 settler housing units. In Gaza, Egyptian delegation 10 Sept visited amid efforts to mediate prisoner exchange talks between Hamas and Israel. Despite late Aug ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, armed factions 15 Sept protested normalisation deals by firing around 15 rockets into southern Israel, wounding two in Ashdod; Israeli air force retaliated with airstrikes. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Gaza despite lockdown, heightening fears of major outbreak in blockaded territory. In Israel, coronavirus cases rose rapidly; govt 13 Sept imposed a three-week national lockdown. Weekly anti-govt protests continued despite health restrictions: thousands 12 Sept gathered outside PM Netanyahu’s residence denouncing corruption and govt’s handling of pandemic.
New PM-designate resigned after failing to form govt amid deepening political polarisation, increased U.S. pressure on Hizbollah and clashes in capital Beirut. Following govt’s resignation last month, French President Emmanuel Macron 1 Sept arrived in Beirut to pressure political elite to kickstart reforms to counter deteriorating economic crisis and secure commitment from new PM-designate Adib – former ambassador to Germany appointed PM-designate 31 Aug – to form govt within 15 days. However, by mid-Sept deadline Adib failed to form new govt due to dispute over allocation of finance portfolio and U.S.-France disagreement over role of Hizbollah. Adib 26 Sept resigned citing govt formation gridlock; Macron next day said there would be “serious consequences” for politicians who failed to uphold deal. Meanwhile, U.S. increased financial pressure on companies and individuals linked to Hizbollah: U.S. Treasury 9 Sept sanctioned Hizbollah allies, former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Youssef Finianos of the Christian Marada Movement; 17 Sept sanctioned two Lebanese companies and one individual for allegedly funneling funds to Hizbollah. President Macron expressed concern over sanctions, warning that confrontation with Hizbollah could further hamper reform efforts. In sign of worsening security across country, violence between rival political groups broke out in Beirut: in Tariq al-Jdide neighbourhood, clashes involving rifles and rocket-propelled grenades 7 Sept erupted between Sunni groups affiliated with former PM Saad Hariri and followers of his brother Bahaa, killing one and injuring two; in eastern suburb, clashes 14 Sept broke out between Christian party Free Patriotic Movement and Lebanese Forces. Four Lebanese soldiers 14 Sept killed in operation to apprehend alleged jihadist militant suspected of planning late Aug attack in Kaftoun village that killed three people; shootout between army and jihadist militants 27 Sept killed three near Miniyeh. Daily COVID-19 cases 14 Sept surged past 1,000 for the first time since outbreak. Accidental explosion at suspected Hizbollah arms depot 22 Sept rocked southern town of Ain Qana, reportedly causing four casualties.
Ceasefire in north west faced new strains, jihadist group Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) sought to consolidate control in Idlib, and Islamic State (ISIS) stepped up deadly attacks. In north west, March ceasefire continued to hold despite daily shelling in southern Idlib and western Aleppo countryside; Russia 25 Sept conducted some 30 airstrikes in opposition-controlled areas, marking highest uptick in strikes since ceasefire. Following late-Aug attacks on Russian-Turkish patrols along M4 highway by unidentified assailants, Russian and Turkish forces 1 Sept held joint military trainings; Russia 15 Sept however declined participation in joint patrol, triggering speculation of impasse between countries over Idlib; Turkish FM 16 Sept described meeting between Turkish and Russian military officials as not “fruitful” while Russian FM Lavrov 21 Sept assured patrolling “would resume soon”. In Idlib, jihadist rebel group HTS reportedly cracked down on rival factions: group early Sept detained French jihadist Omar Omsen and members of rival faction Hizb al-Tahrir; alleged U.S. drone 14 Sept killed two senior commanders of Hurras al-Din – jihadist group competing with HTS – in move likely to aid HTS consolidation in Idlib city; HTS 27 Sept killed two Iraqi ISIS senior commanders in Salqin, Idlib. Confrontations between ISIS militants and regime persisted in area between Aleppo, Hama and Raqqa, raising concerns of jihadist resurgence: fighting first week of Sept killed 48 regime soldiers and 22 ISIS fighters; ISIS militants 7 Sept took control of Doubayat gas field in Homs briefly before Russian forces regained control; heavy fighting between Syrian Army and ISIS in Raqqa province 19-22 Sept reportedly killed at least 64 on both sides. In south west, high-profile assassinations targeted regime: unknown gunmen 1 Sept reportedly killed Syrian Arab Army 5th Corps leader Abdel Salam al-Masri; unknown assailants 2 Sept killed govt officer in Nawa; alleged ISIS assassinations against regime-affiliated senior figures continued, 10-15 Sept killing at least six military commanders. In north east, U.S. Central Command 18 Sept announced additional force deployments following collision last month with Russian military vehicles. Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes 3, 11 Sept struck Iran-linked targets near Iraqi border and Aleppo, respectively.