Modern Bloodshed In The Middle East: The Region's Deadliest Contemporary Conflicts

The most fatal recent and ongoing sate-waged conflicts in the Middle East and neighboring regions. Only official military figures counted, exclusive of civilians.

10. Sad Legacy Of A War-Torn Region

The term “conflict zone”, or “war zone”, is used to refer to an area where the population’s stability has been affected by a growing crisis, often stemming from political or socioeconomic factors. Military operations, civil wars, and religious disputes can all lead to an area being identified as a conflict zone. Such circumstances are characterized by frequent violence, horror and trauma. For these reasons, the term is often used as a hyperbole to emphasize perilous regional situations. Social alienation, enslavement, torture, rape, murder, and genocide can all be listed among the indescribable atrocities that are often comorbid with a locale’s labeling as a conflict zone. A number of ongoing armed conflicts are raging across certain regions of our world today, and some of these upheavals have lasted for decades, with no foreseeable end in sight yet still. We have compiled a list of the most deadly ongoing state-based conflicts, which appear to be especially concentrated in the Middle East, ranked by total numbers of fatalities stemming directly from them.

9. Israel vs. Hamas (25 deaths )

According to official figures, at least 25 people have lost their lives in the conflict between the Israeli government and the Islamic organization Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya (a.k.a. Hamas), which has been designated as a terrorist group by the European Union, Israel, Japan, Egypt, Canada and the United States. Nonetheless, there are several other countries, including Iran, Russia, Switzerland, Norway, Turkey, Qatar, China and Brazil, that do not categorize it as a terror outfit. Based on Islamic principles and claiming a strong following throughout the Arab world, Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya was founded in 1988 in the movement to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation, and establish an Islamic State in the area that covers Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. During the onslaught, the organization proposed a 10-year truce, providing the Israeli government would withdraw its jurisdiction and armed forces to back within its 1967 borders, thus allowing Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their descendants to return to what is today recognized as Israel. In 2006, Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya used one of its many underground cross-border tunnels to capture Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, and held him captive until 2011, when he was set free in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Since then, the organization has continued to expand the network of tunnels, which are now used to store weapons, shield militants, and facilitate attacks. Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the organization’s military wing, has launched vile attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. International human rights groups have condemned these attacks as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

8. Iraq/USA vs. Ansar al-Islam (27 deaths)

According to government records, 27 fatalities have been registered during this state-based conflict. The Sunni group Ansar al-Islam, with strongholds in Iraq and Syria, was established in 2001 as part of the Salafist Islamist movement to strictly impose Sharia law in villages surrounding Biyara and Halabja. The group acquired its insurgent status after the 2003 U.S. and international coalition invasion of Iraq, when its militants attempted to fight off American-led forces and their Iraqi allies. Ansar al-Islam continued to fight the Iraqi government even after the United States withdrew its troops from Iraq, eventually sending its militants to Syria to fight the establishment there as part of the still ongoing Syrian Civil War. The group has been identified as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, Israel, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. It announced its merging with the Islamic State in 2014, thereby officially dissolving its existence as its own entity.

7. Israel vs. PIJ (31 deaths)

This conflict between the Israeli government and the Islamist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has resulted in 31 deaths. Formed in 1981, the PIJ’s objective is the complete destruction of the state of Israel and the establishment of a sovereign, Islamic, Palestinian state. Labeled as a terror outfit by the European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, PIJ receives most of its financial assistance from Iran. After Israel and Egypt cracked down on Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya, PIJ’s threat steadily increased in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Iran continuing to back its activities. It is widely believed that Syria offers financial assistance to PIJ as well.

6. Iran vs. PJAK (219 deaths)

Iran’s conflict with the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) has led to as many as 219 deaths. The armed conflict between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the ethnic secessionist Kurdish guerrilla group PJAK started in 2004, after the latter carried out a series of attacks in the Kurdistan Province of Iran and the surrounding areas inhabited by Kurds. Leaders of PJAK have gone on record demanding an autonomous Kurdish region within the existing state, wherein the party can supersede the governance of greater Iran’s theocracy by implementing a democratically elected, federal government. They propose that, given these powers, they would grant all ethnic minorities, including Kurds, Azeris, and Sunni Arabs, the right of self-rule. Following violent clashes in the summer of 2011, a cease-fire was declared between both sides, with Iran claiming victory and PJAK ending all armed operations.

5. Russia vs. The Caucasus Emirate (359 deaths)

The armed conflict in the North Caucasus region between Russia and militants of the Caucasus Emirate has claimed the lives of at least 359 people. The insurgency, which followed the official end of the decade-long Second Chechen War, has attracted militants from the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, and Europe alike. The conflict has been primarily waged war in the Russian subject republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, and Kabardino-Balkaria. The Caucasus Emirate defines itself as a Jihadist organization that intends to expel Russian forces from the North Caucasus region and establish an independent Islamic emirate there.

4. Turkey vs. PKK (599 deaths)

The conflict between the Republic of Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has resulted in 599 deaths. The conflict began when the PKK demanded separation from the Turkish state to establish an independent Kurdistan, with the powers of autonomous rule by which to ensure greater cultural and political rights for Kurds, who were being denied these rights within Turkey. The conflict was primarily carried out in southeastern Turkey, where PKK launched regular attacks based from the neighboring Kurdistan region of Iraq. This caused Turkey to respond with frequent ground invasions and air strikes, as the Kurdistan Regional Government’s military resources proved inadequate to effectively crack down on PKK’s operations in the region.

3. Iraq vs. ISIS (834 deaths)

According to official figures, the Islamic State’s onslaught in across Iraq, Syria, and the greater Levant region has claimed the lives of as many as 834 people. The Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), a Salafi jihadist extremist militant organization comprised mostly by Sunni Arabs from Iraq and Syria, took over territory occupied by 10 million people. Recently proclaiming itself as a worldwide caliphate, the Islamic State aims to acquire complete political, religious, and military control over Muslims from all across the globe. Since being founded in 1999, Islamic State has increasingly gained notoriety since the conflicts between Iraqi insurgents and U.S.-led coalition forces, before ultimately playing the active role as prime instigator in the Syrian Civil War. The United Nations holds Islamic State responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes, as the terrorist organization has threatened to carry out an ethnic cleansing of historic proportions. Following Iraq’s failure to curb the Islamic State operations, more than 60 countries have become directly or indirectly involved in waging war against the terror outfit.

2. Syria vs. FSA (842 deaths)

Syria’s conflict with the Free Syrian Armay (FSA) has resulted in 842 deaths ever since a group of seven defected officers and soldiers, who were earlier part of Syrian Armed Forces, decided to form the FSA as their own battalion during the Syrian Civil War. Identifying all Syrian security forces attacking civilians as their enemies, the FSA aimed to bring down the system. In late 2011, FSA merged with the Free Officers Movement, which mostly comprises of Sunni Muslims and certain minority groups, including Alawites, Druze, and Kurds.

1. Yemen/USA vs. AQAP (1,140 deaths)

The al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) insurgency in Yemen has led to a shocking 1,140 deaths, according to official records. This armed conflict between Yemen’s government, with America as its ally, and al-Qaeda affiliated cells has often been dubbed as the front lines of the ‘Global War on Terror’. Yemen increased its efforts to crack down on al-Qaeda cells in 2001, and officially declared open war on the notorious terror organization in 2010. In 2011, Yemen’s fight against al-Qaeda coincided with the ‘Yemeni Revolution’, during which jihadists started to seize the governorate to declare it as an emirate.

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